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Avraham Tzvi Schwartz

     A Special Device

Logically, keeping Shabbos should only impoverish a person. He loses a whole work-day, a day where he could be earning. This is reasonable. This makes sense. Still, the truth is the exact opposite.

The Roman government once decreed that the Jews should not keep Shabbos. R’ Reuven ben Isteroboli went, shaved his forehead [that he might look like a Roman], and sat with them.

“One who has an enemy,” he asked them, “should he make him poor or rich?”

“He should make him poor,” they all answered.

“If so, let the Jews cease from working on Shabbos, that they may be poor” he told them.

“Well said,” they replied, “we will annul the decree,” and they annulled it.

However, when they discovered later that Reb Reuven was a Jew, they instituted it again.[1] (Me’ila 17a)

Expense Account

There are a number of ways Shabbos helps a person towards wealth. The first is by compensating him for all that he spends in the honor of Shabbos.

Rav Tachlipha, brother of Ravnai Chozah, taught: A person’s livelihood is fixed from Rosh haShana to Rosh haShana, with the exception of what he spends on Shabbos and Yom Tov ...[2] If he cuts back his expenses on them, the Heavens correspondingly cut back on his allowance; and if he spends more[3] on them, they correspondingly, increase it. (Beitza 16a)

A Source of Wealth

However, beyond the fact that Shabbos does not burden a person financially, it also brings him wealth.

“Rebbi,” asked R’ Yishmael b’Rebbi Yosi, “How do the wealthy of Bavel merit their wealth?”
“Through honoring the Torah,” he answered.
“And in other lands?” R’ asked.
“Through honoring the Shabbos.”[4] (Shabbos 119a)

R’ Yochanan said in the name of R’ Yosi: One who gives delight to the Shabbos,[5] receives an inheritance that has no boundaries...
Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: One who gives delight to the Shabbos, receives his heart’s desires. (Shabbos 118a,b) R’ Chiya bar Aba related, “Once a certain man in Ludkia hosted me. The servants brought in a golden table so heavy, that sixteen men had to carry it. Silver chains were fixed to it. Bowls and cups, jugs and flasks adorned it. Every type of food, delicacy and spice graced it.

As they set it down they proclaimed, “The earth and its contents belongs to Hashem.” (Tehillim 24.1)

When they removed it they declared, “The Heavens are Hashem’s, while the earth he gave to man.” (Tehillim 115.16)

How did you merit this wealth, my son?” I asked him.

“I was a butcher,” he told me, “and whenever a beautiful animal came my way,[6] I would set it aside for Shabbos.”

“How fortunate you are,” I told him, “that you merited so much, and blessed is Hashem who gave you all this.” (Shabbos 119a)

A Generous Employer

Once, there was a certain very wealthy non-Jew who lived near Yosef Mokir-Shabsa, (Yosef who honored Shabbos). Star-gazers told him, “We see that Yosef Mokir-Shabsa has eaten all your wealth.”[7]

On hearing this the non-Jew went, sold all his property, and bought a precious jewel with the proceeds. He hid the jewel in his hat.[8]

Once when he crossed a bridge, the wind blew his hat into the river. A fish swallowed the jewel. Fishermen caught the fish on Erev Shabbos.

“Who will buy this fish now?” they asked.

“Take it to Yosef Mokir-Shabsa,” they told them, “who usually buys delicacies in honor of Shabbos.” Yosef bought it, tore it open, and found the jewel. He sold it for thirteen attics of golden dinarim.

An old man met Yosef and told him; “One who lends to Shabbos,[9] Shabbos repays him!” (Shabbos 119a)


The Rabbis taught: There is a hard-worker who profits, and a hard-worker who loses; [likewise] there is a lazy-worker who profits and a lazy-worker who loses.

There is a hard-worker who profits – this is the person who works all week and does not work on Erev Shabbos. There is a hard-worker who loses – this is the person who works all week, and also works on Erev Shabbos.[10]
There is lazy-worker who profits – This is a person who doesn’t work all week, and also doesn’t work on Erev Shabbos.[11] There is a lazy-worker who loses – This is a person who doesn’t work all week, but does work on Erev Shabbos. (Pesachim 50b)

For her Honor

There was a wealthy family in Yerushalayim. But because they feasted on Erev Shabbos, [thus entering Shabbos with full stomachs and shaming her honor], they lost their wealth. (Gitin 38b)

Rabba said: Householders who inspect their property on Shabbos,[12] lose their wealth. (Gitin 38b)

A certain pious man once walked in his vineyard on Shabbos thinking all along how he might improve it. Suddenly he found a hole in his fence.

“I will not fix this hole,” he rebuked himself, “for I had thought to fix it on Shabbos!”

What then did Hashem then do? He sent a caper-bush that sealed his wall. Moreover, the bush sustained the pious man with its fruits for the rest of his life. (VaYikra Raba 34.16)

We should not even pray for our personal needs on Shabbos...

“How then do we pray in the Birkas haMazon, ‘feed us, sustain us’?”[13] R’ Zeira asked R’ Chiya bar Aba.

“This is the format of the blessing,”[14] he answered. (ibid.)

Another Shabbos

Just as the seven-day week has the Shabbos day as its crown, so the seven-year cycle has its special Shabbos, the Shmitta year. And just as observing the Shabbos day brings him to prosperity, while scorn­ing it leads to poverty, similarly and even more so, observing Shmitta brings him to riches,[15] while profaning it leads to his downfall.

Hashem cherishes “the sevens”[16]... Amongst the days, the seventh day is dearer than all other days. Amongst the years, the seventh year is dearer than all other years. (VaYikra Raba 29.11)
When Yisrael fulfills Hashem’s wish they keep Shmitta once in seven years, but when they do not fulfill His will, they must keep four Shmittas in seven years.
How so? To produce good crops, a farmer leaves his field fallow one year and farms it the next. Thus he leaves his field fallow four times in seven years; but if he keeps Shmitta, Hashem blesses his field and he need only leave the field fallow once in seven years.[17] (Mechilta Mishpatim 23.213)
“Warn Yisrael to keep Shmitta,” Hashem told Moshe, “so that they are not exiled from the land.”[18] (Yalkut Shimoni, BeHar 658.)
A person eager to become rich who does not keep Shmitta, thinks that this will help him. The Divine Presence however, tells him: “You will lose through this; you have cursed your own property, and now you will have to sell it.”[19] (Tanchuma BeHar 1)
R’ Yosi b’Rebbi Chanina taught: See how severe is the dust of Shmitta[20] – if a person buys and sells seventh year fruits, Heaven impoverishes him such that he must sell up his goods. If he is indifferent to Heaven’s message and does not change his ways, they force him to sell his fields. If he is indifferent to this message and does not change his ways, they force him to sell his house. If he is indifferent to this message and does not change his ways, they force him to sell his daughter as a maidservant. If he is indifferent to this message and does not change his ways, they force him borrow money with ribis. If he is indifferent to this message and does not change his ways, they force him sell himself. (Kidushin 20a)


[1] They renewed their decree – Even the Romans could understand that Shabbos is a source of blessing for the Jewish people.

[2] What he spends on Shabbos and Yom Tov – as well as what he spends on his children’s Torah education. (ibid.)

[3] If he spends more – He must be careful though, to direct his expenses towards glorifying the Shabbos, and not just honoring his stomach.

[4] Through honoring the Shabbos – The person who honors and glorifies Hashem brings blessing and prosperity into his world. Thus, for example, when he honors Torah scholars, this is a form of honoring Hashem, and it brings him wealth.

What of those lands where there are no Torah scholars? How may he gain this merit there? This is through honoring Shabbos. By showing honor to this holy day, he testifies to the belief that Hashem created the world, and completely controls it. Thus, he honors his Master.

Every Jew must keep Shabbos. If he doesn’t do so, the Torah discounts his status as a Jew. On the other hand, when he not only keeps the Shabbos but also honors her, he is a Jew in the best possible sense – and he merits the greatest of heavenly blessings.

[5] One who gives delight to the Shabbos – The essential mitzva is to treat the Shabbos queen as an important guest; to honor her with tasty meals, a tidy home and festive behavior. (Heard from Rav Shmuel Yitzchok Herman)

[6] A beautiful animal – He would reserve only the best of meat. However, of greater importance, he would do this specifically, for Shabbos’s honor.

[7] Yosef Mokir-Shabsa has eaten all your wealth – Yosef spent so much on Shabbos, that he had already consumed the equivalent of the non-Jew’s wealth in the honor of Shabbos. (Maharsha)

[8] He hid the jewel – While the non-Jew may well have realized that all his wealth only existed for the honor of Hashem, and therefore belonged to the Jew who served Hashem, nevertheless he tried to prevent him from receiving his wealth. His plan however, not only did not help him, it even simplified the process by which Yosef would receive his wealth.

[9] One who lends to Shabbos – How could Yosef have ‘lent’ so much money to Shabbos? While ‘the thirteen attics of gold coins’ mentioned is an exaggeration (Rashi), still it does indicate that Yosef received a fortune – after all, this non-Jew was a wealthy man!

We must say therefore, that Shabbos repaid him not only for his expenses, but also for all the effort he exerted to honor Shabbos, the ingenuity he displayed to promote her beauty. These efforts demand that he receive a beautiful compensation.

[10] He works on Erev Shabbos Hard work alone does not lead to prosperity. Every person needs Hashem to bless his endeavors. For with­out this blessing his attempts are in vain, the fruits of his labors may simply all rot. On the other hand, with Hashem’s blessing, even the most pathetic attempts may develop into treasure-chests of riches. With Hashem’s blessing, even ‘the lazy worker’ may prosper.

Shabbos is our great source of blessing, prosperity and well-being. On Shabbos we stop all week-day activity, and rest. This rest allows us to realize that Hashem owns all, that He controls all. Moreover, when we honor Shabbos – really honor her – we draw closer to our Maker, and merit Hashem’s friendship, and blessing.

A great element of honoring Shabbos is devoting time to its preparations. The more a person invests in preparing himself, the more successful his Shabbos is. This is true not only in the physical sense. With his preparations he trains himself to appreciate Shabbos to an ever-greater, ever-deeper extent.

The most important time to prepare for Shabbos is Erev Shabbos. Here a person may give his whole self to her honor. Ceasing from work alone already gives honor to Shabbos; how much the more so, if he uses this time to prepare treats for the Shabbos. Then he truly merits her blessings.

[11] He also doesn’t work on Erev Shabbos The fact that he doesn’t work all week long, does not withhold him from enjoying the brocha of not working on Erev Shabbos.

[12] Householders who inspect their property – On Shabbos a person trains himself to think that it is only Hashem who truly produces and creates; he focuses on the thought that it is only Hashem who cares for his needs. How so? – By not doing any work himself. However, when he inspects his property or engages in some other weekday pursuit on this holy day, he spoils the lesson of Shabbos; he tarnishes its beauty.

The work a person does during the week, receives its blessing from Shabbos. It receives a blessing when he understands – in the deepest, most profound of ways – that it is only Hashem who sustains him. However when he violates Shabbos, he forfeits this blessing. This leads him to poverty. (Based on the Maharsha)

[13] Feed us, sustain us – We do not pray for our personal needs on Shabbos, for this is the day we must understand, that only Hashem cares for our needs – even when we do not prompt Him.

[14] This is the format of the blessing – and a person does not think of his problems when he recites it. (Rav Ze’ev Wolf Einhorn)

[15] Even more so, observing Shmitta brings him riches – If not working one day a week teaches us that Hashem runs all, how much the more then does not working for a full year, show us that Hashem controls the world.

[16] “The sevens” – Other sevens Hashem endears include: the seventh Heaven, Arvos; the tzaddik of the seventh generation from Creation, Chanoch; the seventh leader of the Jewish people, Moshe; the seventh Jewish king, Asa; the year that culminates the seventh of the seven-year cycles, Yoveil – the Jubilee year; the seventh month of the year, Tishrei.

[17] Once in seven years – Many of the Torah’s mitzvos appear at first to add discomfort and inconvenience to our lives. However, the riches that come in their wake more than compensate us for our troubles. Thus, the farmer who must cease farming, may at first cry over his financial losses; but eventually, he will realize that he is only the richer for them.

[18] So that they are not exiled – This is the special punishment for those who disregard the Shmitta. For only when they are off the land may the land then ‘catch up’ on the spiritual rest that the people had denied it.

[19] You will have to sell it – When we misuse the gifts Hashem gives us, we must, against our will, forfeit them.

[20] The dust of Shmitta These are rules that only border on the actual prohibitions of Shmitta, and are not Torah requirements themselves. Dealing with Shmitta produce is just such a sin, and one of the lightest of those relating to Shmitta. For this reason the Rabbis call it “dust.” Still it carries a harsh punishment. As a result of it, Heaven forces his financial downfall, and he must sell his property.

While this message may be a subtle one, still, one who wishes to under­stand, understands it very clearly. Moreover, if he takes the lesson to heart and repents, Hashem will restore to him all He took. (Rashi) However, if he disregards this message, he is punished further and further. As his sin brings him lower, so his punishment grows increasingly harsh. It enwraps and chokes him in its grip, until he breaks. For only thus may he, and those who follow him, attach importance to Hashem’s word.

There is an important idea regarding wealth, that comes directly from the mitzva of Shmitta. This is the idea of ‘relative wealth.’ The Torah speaks out the objection a person might have to keeping the Shmitta, and offers a unique solution.

‘And if you will ask what will we eat in the seventh year when we don’t sow or gather in our grain; [Know, says Hashem,] I will command...that the sixth year should produce enough grain for three years, [the sixth, seventh and eighth]. VaYikra 25.20,21.

We see here something interesting. This is that the promise of a triple crop is made only to those who ask what will we eat in the seventh year. No such promise is made to those who don’t ask what will we eat in the seventh year. Will they not receive three times the amount of grain? – To answer this question our Rabbis teach that the person who does not ask, does not in fact, receive three times as much grain. Rather he receives the same crop as any other year. Instead, there is a blessing in his food, and the little he has, lasts for three years. What is his gain? – He need not toil and sweat like the farmer with the triple crop. (Rav Leibush Charif, quoted in Mayana shel Torah)

Similarly, there are those that have little wealth, and yet enjoy every one of life’s pleasures. How so? With Hashem’s blessing. For once they have Hashem’s backing, their ‘little’ goes a very long way.

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