” 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 for naught.
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 home sadly.
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.