Special Providence for Holy People

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Not only the tribe of Levi, but any of Earth’s inhabitants whose spirit generously motivates him, and he understands with his wisdom to separate and stand before God, to minister to Him and worship Him, to know God, living justly as God made him, and he removes from his neck the yoke of the many calculations which people seek, he is sanctified as holy of holies. God will be His portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites. And thus David declared [Psalms 16:5]: “God is the lot of my portion; You are my cup, You support my lot.” (Maimonides, Laws of Shmitta and the Jubilee 13:13)

Any person—Jew or gentile—can earn this providence. This describes God’s optimal life for man: to be fully engaged in studying God’s wisdom. But it is difficult to abandon a practical life, a financially planned life, and instead, trust God’s unknowable methods of support. Man veers far from taking chances forfeiting success, making “many calculations” to secure success. But then there are men like King David who can’t abandon Torah, regardless of financial insecurity. They prefer to remain engaged in Torah study, to the point where they might subsist on only bread and water, and sleep on the ground (should it come to that) and trust in God: “God is the lot of my portion; You are my cup, You support my lot” (Psalms 16:5):

Such is the way [of a life] of Torah: you shall eat bread with salt, and rationed water shall you drink; you shall sleep on the ground, your life will be one of privation, and in Torah shall you labor. If you do this, “Happy shall you be and it shall be good for you” (Psalms 128:2): “Happy shall you be” in this world, “and it shall be good for you” in the world to come.  (Avos 6:4) 

Such people find the only worthwhile life not in physical security, but in exploring God’s wisdom at all moments and at all costs. And the rabbis teach that in fact, God cares for His holy ones: 

Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakkanah said, “Whomever takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah, there is removed from him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns” (Avos 3:5).

Rabbi Jonathan said, “Whomever fulfills the Torah out of a state of poverty, his end will be to fulfill it out of a state of wealth” (Avos 4:9). 

This security God provides is fully sensible, as God's preference is that man “minimizes his work, and maximize his learning” (Avos 4:10). God will certainly help one attain this lifestyle.

But now let’s analyze our first source in detail and identify such a person’s perfected character traits. Maimonides says, “his spirit generously motivates him.” Spirit (ru’ach) refers to man’s ego (Ibn Ezra, Koheles 7:3). Maimonides teaches that man must first be able to abandon the need for peer approval. By recognizing no value to his soul or to his perfection in striving for wealth, he abandons the ego satisfaction of societal success and their applause, and therefore he can release himself from following society.  He can do this as “he understands with his wisdom.” That is, knowledge—not emotion—guides him. He realizes that in his temporary life, he should benefit his “true self”—his soul. That is the essence of man, not the temporary physical wealth and status.

Next: “He separates and stands before God.” Unconcerned with societal status, he separates from society. He chooses to be before God, not before man. “Standing before God” means he engages in God’s wisdom all day. His mind is curious about God’s creation and His Torah. Worldly matters are distractions from what his soul enjoys most. 

Next: “to minister to Him and worship Him.” By comparison to the previous halacha 13:12, which discusses the Levites ministering to God—“To minister unto Him and to instruct people”—we can understand ministering to God as spreading His Torah. The personality we discuss follows the Levites’ act of teaching Torah, for all Temple practices embodied wisdom. And he also worships God, which means subjugation to God: “He performs God's will as his own will” (Avos 2:4). The self is lost as his focus is God’s will and wisdom alone, “to know God.”

Living justly as God made him” describes a person who is fair and kind to others. Here again his own ego plays no role to take advantage of others. Just the opposite: he views others as God’s will and treats all people with complete care, equality, justice, charity and kindness.

He removes from his neck the yoke of the many calculations which people seek”

Targum on Koheles 7:29 writes as follows:

God made Adam the First upright before Him and just; and the serpent and Eve seduced him to eat of the fruit of the tree, because those who eat its fruit would be wise to discern between good and evil, and they brought upon him and all the inhabitants of the earth the day of death; [then] they sought to find many calculations in order to bring deficiency upon the inhabitants of the Earth.

Targum teaches that it was only after sentencing mankind to death, that Adam sought these many calculations. These calculations refer to man's obsession with many physical preoccupations to regain a sense of immortality. Through physical possessions and pleasures—earthly matters—Adam sought to deny his death sentence…and mankind followed suit. But the holy man we discuss accepts a temporary Earthly life, knowing that wisdom is eternal, and the only value. He reaches the highest level human: “he is sanctified as holy of holies.”

“God will be His portion and heritage forever”

He earns eternity. 

“And God will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites.”  Special providence exists for holy people.