15. You Can’t Earn a Living That Way

When I was a kid growing up in Kew Garden Hills, Mr. Brach owned the butcher shop. It was a very skinny little store. And I remember very vividly Mr. Brach, the butcher, standing there, his big forearms, cutting the meat. He always greeted me with a nice smile. And I later on discovered the story of Mr. Brach’s butcher shop.

You see, Kew Garden Hills was a fledgling community, and Rabbi Schonfeld, the rabbi of the Young Israel decided that they needed a butcher shop to allow the community to grow. He approached Mr. Brach, who didn’t live there at the time and invited him to come to Kew Garden Hills to open a butcher shop there. Mr. Brach explained Kew Garden Hills did not have enough frum (religious) Jews to support a butcher shop. Rabbi Schonfeld said fine, you tell me how much you need to live, whatever the butcher shop brings in you’ll take, and anything missing the Young Israel will subsidize. And that was the arrangement. Each month they would do a reckoning, they would figure out how much profit the butcher shop made. Anything short of what Mr. Brach needed to live on, the Young Israel provided the rest.

This went on month after month, more people began joining the community, and people began moving in. Before long the Young Israel no longer had to subsidize. Not long after that there was a profit. And one day someone comes in to Mr. Brach and says you know, there’s a house for sale, do you want to buy it as an investment? He had some extra money, so he invested, bought it, sold it, bought another one, sold it, flipped that one, flipped that one. Within not a long time, according to what they say, he was worth 25 million dollars.

Now, here’s the point. You and I both know that you can’t become wealthy owning a butcher shop. You can’t own a butcher shop and become a rich individual; it just doesn’t work that way. Until you understand that Hashem is the One Who runs the world. My job is to use the world in the ways of the world, my job is to follow my inclinations, my job is to follow my instincts, and I’m supposed to know that Hashem determines exactly how much money I am to make. My brilliant investment ideas, my lousy ideas, as long as I’m acting prudently and responsibly, as long as I’m going out into the marketplace and asking myself what does my wisdom tell me, what is the best idea here, based on my talents and my understanding, provided I’m using the world in the ways of the world I have to know that Hashem will determine exactly the outcome. Riches or poverty, that’s mei’eis (from) Hashem. My job is to go in the derech hateva, to act in the way that Hashem wants me, to use the world in the ways of the world.