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S.A.L.T. - Sunday

Rav David Silverberg

          The Gemara in Masekhet Beitza (16a) teaches that “mezonotav shel adam” – a person’s livelihood – for the entire year is decreed during the period from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur.  It is during this time when God determines how much money a person will earn over the course of the coming year.  (The Gemara adds that this does not include one’s expenses for Shabbat, Yom Tov, and his children’s Torah education, which are added onto the amount decreed at the beginning of the year.)  As a source for this concept, the Gemara cites a verse in Sefer Tehillim (81:5) which says in reference to Rosh Hashanah, “Ki chok le-Yisrael hu” – that this day is a “chok” (literally, “statute”) for the Nation of Israel.  The Gemara proceeds to note two verses which mention the word “chok” in the context of receiving one’s livelihood.  The first is a verse in Sefer Bereishit (47:22) which speaks of the portion granted by Pharaoh to the Egyptian priests – “ve-akhelu et chukam.”  The second is the plea in Sefer Mishlei (30:8), “Hatrifeini lechem chuki,” begging God to provide one’s material needs.  As the word “chok” is associated with livelihood, the description of Rosh Hashanah as a “chok le-Yisrael” suggests that this is the day when our sustenance for the coming year is determined.

          Rav Yehuda Leib Ginsburg, in Mussar Ha-mishna (vol. 1, pp. 329-330), notes the difference between the two verses cited by the Gemara in establishing the association between the word “chok” and material sustenance.  The first speaks of a king granting a generous portion to a select class of people, who receive a substantial allowance without exerting any effort.  The second verse, by contrast, refers to the provision of food with the verb “hatrifeini,” a derivative of the root t.r.f., which generally refers to animals preying on other animals for food.  Animals in the wild obtain food with great difficulty, and are seldom satisfied.  The Gemara thus depicts two contrasting models of sustenance: a comfortable livelihood received effortlessly, and a meager sustenance which is secured with considerable hardship and struggle.

          Rav Ginsburg explains that the Gemara cites both verses to emphasize that we must acknowledge God as our provider under all circumstances, regardless of whether we are blessed with a comfortable livelihood, or if we struggle for a scarce sustenance.  Even in times of financial hardship and shortage, when we resemble beasts of prey, exerting great effort to obtain what we need to survive, without experiencing satiation, we are to recognize that God graciously gives us everything we have, and He has determined that this is what we need.  Rather than feel resentful and embittered, we should appreciate all that God gives us, and reinforce our belief that He always grants us precisely that which we are meant to have.  While we pray for a “chok” resembling the generous allowance granted to the Egyptian priests, we must strive to feel appreciative and content even under conditions of “Hatrifeini lechem chuki,” when our material aspirations remain unfulfilled.



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