" By the word of G-d the Sons of Israel traveled and by the word of G-d
they camped" Bemidbar 9:18
The book of Bemidbar details the travels of the people of Israel through
the desert for forty years. The camp was systematically set up so that each
of the four directions of the compass was occupied by three of the 12
tribes and the Ark containing the Tablets of the Torah brought down from
Sinai by Moshe sat at the center of the camp. A Pillar of cloud and fire
served as the guide for the people's travels. When the Pillar moved the
people followed and when the Pillar stopped the people set up camp anew.
The verse refers to this unique travel system as traveling and settling
according to the word of G-d.
Our Sages learn from this period that a person must conduct one's life with
an awareness that all that one does is through the will of G-d. The Shelah
Hakadosh suggests that one train oneself to say "Im yirseh Hashem -- should
G-d desire" or "B'Ezrat Hashem -- with the help of G-d" whenever one
undertakes a task. "I am going to Chicago -- B'Ezrat Hashem and I will buy
some merchandise there for my store --Im yirseh Hashem" is the Jewish
perspective on all human activity. What He wants will be!
The Osar Hamidrashim tells of a rich man who was charitable and kind yet
his belief in Hashem's complete control over human affairs was lacking
somewhat. He sincerely felt that what he had acquired in his years of
business was due to his own brilliant business acumen and many hours of effort.
Once, this gentleman set out to the market to buy some new oxen. On the way
he met Eliyahu Hanabi, disguised as another merchant. "Where are you
headed?" inquired the disguised prophet. "I am going to the market to buy
some additional oxen for my growing business," answered the proud merchant.
"You should say B'Ezrat Hashem -- with the help of G-d" replied Eliyahu
Hanabi. "Why?' retorted the conceited businessman, "I have the money in my
pocket, and the eye for a good buy. There are very few who can resist my
negotiating skills. I have all that I need to succeed!" "If you don't
acknowledge the control of G-d you will not succeed", warned Eliyahu.
As the merchant walked away from Eliyahu his purse fell from his pocket.
Eliyahu picked it up and placed it on a stump in the forest. How
disappointed the man was when after working diligently to choose the best
oxen and negotiating a deal he reached for his money only to find that he
was broke and the deal fell through. All of his travel and hard work was
This would depress most but the persistent man gathered together some new
capital and headed for the market again. Eliyahu in another disguise again
suggested that the man acknowledge the Hashgahah of Hashem and again the
man saw no need because he felt that he alone had earned his own wealth. A
deep sleep overtook the tired traveler and Eliyahu took his purse from his
pocket and placed it on the distant stump in the forest where he had put
the first purse. When the man awoke to find his money missing he returned
The two similar incidents woke up the bright businessperson to the control
of G-d in human affairs. He felt that his losses were due to his own lack
of belief and the fact that he had ignored the warnings of those that he
encountered on the road. He resolved to always preface his actions with the
declarations "Im yirseh Hashem" and "B'Ezrat Hashem" and this became his
habit in all that he did.
On his third trip to the market Eliyahu disguised himself as a young boy.
"Where are you going, sir?" he asked. "I am going to the market -- Im
yirseh Hashem and B'Ezrat Hashem I am going to purchase some new oxen,"
replied the merchant. "If you find what you need and you could use my help
please call me and I will assist in the transport of your purchase to your
home," said the boy. On the way home one of the animals broke away from the
boy's grasp and ran into the forest. The ox stopped adjacent to the stump
where the two lost purses lay. "Barukh Hashem -- Thank the Lord -- declared
the happy man --"G-d has returned my lost money to me!"
In all that one does one must acknowledge the complete control of G-d. It
is what He desires that will be! By the word of G-d we travel and by the
word of G-d we camp.