Knowing how much effort to invest into your job or business is a delicate balance. We’re required to put in some effort, but it’s important to know how much is too much.

What is the Purpose of Hishtadlus?

Jewish sources state that all of our livelihood is decreed on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We are told that Hashem sits in judgment on this day and decides exactly what every person’s income and circumstances will be that year.

That means that whether you work twenty hours a week or a hundred hours, Hashem has already decided if you will make $20,000 a year or multiple six figures. You’ll make the same money no matter how hard you work, because it’s already been decreed from Heaven.

Your income is not really dependent on your hishtadlus, meaning that they are two separate things that only seem to correlate. The amount of hishtadlus, i.e. work or effort that you put in, is not necessarily tied to the actual income amount you will see.

But if all your work isn’t what’s making the difference to your bottom line, and you’ll receive what was decreed for you on Rosh Hashanah anyway, then why does a person need to work at all? We should all be able to sit back and relax, knowing that our livelihood for the year has already been determined, down to the last penny.

The truth is that Hashem would be able to send us our money anyway, even if we didn’t work, but that’s not the way Hashem wants His world to run. Earning money without putting in the effort would be a miracle, and Hashem doesn’t generally run the world according to miracles. Instead, Hashem wants us all to work, so that it appears that our salary is coming from our jobs.

In fact, in the Torah Hashem instructs us to work, with the words “Six days you shall work, and on the seventh day is Shabbos.” This verse tells us that we must actually do work for six days a week, and rest only on the seventh day. We need to spend our week putting in effort to earn a livelihood.

This way, we work, Hashem sends the money, and it doesn’t appear that there’s been a miracle. Our efforts cover the miracle of our livelihood, just as Hashem desires.

With all that, we must remember that Hashem is still the One Who is actually providing us with all our needs. No matter how hard we work, our efforts in parnassah aren’t the real source of our livelihood. Only Hashem is. That’s the emunah (belief) we need to bring to our livelihood efforts, so that our emunah and hishtadlus for parnassah go together. 

Another important point is that a large income doesn’t always translate to having more materially. Someone can earn megabucks, yet lose the bulk of his income to medical bills or lawsuit expenses. A family with a very tight budget can suddenly get an influx of funds as a gift from an unexpected source. Hashem works out these situations so that everyone has exactly what they are supposed to have, no matter how much they earn.

Even if we earn a lot of money, we won’t always be able to keep it if it wasn’t decreed for us. Unexpected expenses, like home or car repairs, can drain our bank accounts of the extra money that we weren’t supposed to enjoy. For this reason, it’s better not to work too hard, even if it seems that it will help you earn more, because that extra money may not belong to you.

Instead of working harder at hishtadlus to try to bring in more income, it’s helpful to work on your bitachon that Hashem will provide exactly what is meant for you.

How Hishtadlus and Bitachon Affect Your Job 

Having bitachon (trust) in Hashem that He is truly the One providing your needs will influence the way you look for a job. The author of the Chovos Halevavos (Duties of the Heart – an early Jewish source) writes that every person is born with aptitudes that make him especially suited for a specific task.


To illustrate how this works, the Chovos Halevavos writes, we can take a look at the animal kingdom. Every bird is perfectly equipped with the kind of beak it needs to hunt and eat the food that it likes best. Many creatures are equipped with hunting abilities, while others were given the ability to find and eat certain plants, identifying the ones that they like best.


Similarly, every person is equipped with abilities that make him perfectly tailored to enter a certain profession that will bring him his livelihood and success. Some people are natural leaders, while others enjoy working as part of a team. Some people like a predictable job, others enjoy the stimulation of diverse tasks and responsibilities. The personalities and skills that you were born with are your signposts, showing you which direction to take in looking for a job or profession. 


As part of the proper balance for hishtadlus for parnassah, you don’t have to look for the highest-paying job if it’s not something you feel you are cut out for. Rather, you can choose the profession that is best suited to your personality, and trust that Hashem will send you everything that was decreed for you to earn.  


If you’re not sure what type of job is most likely to fit your personality and strengths, you can access many personality and aptitude tests online. Many are free, like this interest assessment, while others require you to work with a paid coach to figure out which career would fit you best.

Factoring Parnassah and Hishtadlus Into Career Changes

Once you’ve figured out what you enjoy doing and which career fits it best, there’s no reason to start doubting yourself. Don’t start looking over at friends or neighbors who are doctors or businessmen and wonder if you need to be like them to make money. If being a doctor, which requires a lot of stamina and years of medical school, is not a good fit for you, then that’s not how Hashem wants you to earn the money that was decreed for you.


Even when the job outlook for the career or field you are in doesn’t seem too great, you don’t need to worry. If this is a career that works for you, the Chovos Halevavos writes that you can stick to it, and you will still see a steady parnassah. As long as you haven’t chosen your field for glory or because it was once the best-paying career, you can calmly remain in your job and do what you love to do.


However, looking for promotions or better-paying jobs in your field of interest might be considered proper hishtadlus. Balancing hishtadlus for parnassah and the right bitachon in such a case would mean knowing that Hashem will provide you with all your needs whether or not you get the raise you wanted. If you’re unsure whether or not switching jobs for parnassah and hishtadlus is the right move, asking a Rabbi can help you get clarity.

The Proper Balance for Hishtadlus for Parnassah

When we know that Hashem is providing us with all our needs anyway and the hishtadlus, (meaning our job or business), is there just to cover the miracle of our sustenance, we approach work differently. Being a workaholic just doesn’t seem necessary if the amount of money we’ll earn has already been decided at the beginning of the year. 


Rather, maintaining proper perspective of emunah and hishtadlus for parnassah means keeping to a normal work ethic. It means being dedicated to fulfilling all our job duties properly but without any undue stress to outperform others, work overtime, or get a compliment from a boss.


The proper hishtadlus and bitachon perspective is also easily seen by how much we allow our work for parnassah and hishtadlus to interfere with other aspects of our lives. Having a healthy work-life balance is part of bitachon, because when we trust that Hashem is the One giving us everything we need, we don’t feel like it’s all up to us and how much effort we put in.


So there’s no need to push other priorities aside in order to be able to work more hours. Spiritual obligations like setting aside time to learn Torah, and family obligations like taking care of children, shouldn’t take the back burner to doing hishtadlus for parnassah. In fact, It is a segulah for parnassah for one to establish a designated time every day to learn Torah. Giving these aspects of your life as much priority as your work obligations shows that you have the right perspective of balancing hishtadlus for parnassah.

Emunah and Hishtadlus for Parnassah

Having more bitachon means having more awareness that Hashem is the one providing you with everything you need. Bitachon is a feeling of trust, not just the intellectual belief that Hashem provides, but the internalized emotional sentiment of feeling calm and secure in Hashem’s care.


When a person has more bitachon, he won’t need to do as much hishtadlus. He trusts that Hashem will send him the money he needs without him working hard, just as Hashem provided the Jews in the desert with manna from Heaven, without them having to work at all to attain their sustenance. A person with a high level of bitachon can merit this kind of sustenance, similar to manna, even today.


The more bitachon you have, the less worried you’ll feel about your parnassah. When you’re less worried and feel secure about money, you won’t do any hishtadlus that doesn’t really make sense for you.


If you are unsure whether a specific hishtadlus is right for you, think about a time when you felt very strongly that Hashem was taking care of you. Imagine if you had that feeling now, and think about if you would do this hishtadlus when you still had that feeling strongly.

What can you do to increase your bitachon so that you can feel calm about your parnassah?

  • You can learn sefarim (Jewish texts) such as Chovos Halevavos which write about bitachon. For a free English translation of the Chovos Halevavos on bitachon, see here.
  • You can daven (pray) with more kavanah, so that you internalize the meaning of the words, which describe Hashem’s great power and how He orchestrates everything in this world. 
  • You can undertake to do a mitzvah or an action that will help you remember that Hashem is in charge. Examples are doing chesed (kind acts) with another Jew (even if he is a competitor,) giving maaser (a tenth of your income) to charity, and making a Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying Hashem’s name) with your actions in the workplace.


Giving Tzedakah for Parnassah

Giving tzedakah (charity) is a way of showing that you believe fully that you receive all your money from Hashem. It’s a beautiful expression of your emunah and your trust that Hashem is taking care of you, as you are using the money you were given to fulfill Hashem’s mitzvah (commandment) of tzedakah.


RMBH Charities offers you the opportunity to donate to the most worthy kinds of charity causes. Whether you want to support Torah scholars, or help special-needs children, your tzedakah shows your bitachon in Hashem.

Read More about Parnassah: