When a farmer is hit by a drought, or a destructive flood, this causes collateral damage to the market that buys his produce, and that sells him supplies. A disruption in one area of the supply chain disrupts all the other links in the chain… or so we think.
The truth is, this is not at all how things work.
Moshe (Moses) tells the Jewish people in this week’s Torah portion, “You are blessed in the city, you are blessed in the field. (Deut 28:10).” Isn’t this backwards? In an agricultural society, people work in the field to produce food and other resources for those living in cities. If there is blessing in the field, there’s an abundance of resources for the people to benefit from. Why, then, does Moshe indicate that the blessings begin in the city first, and then the field?
We tend to believe that our own efforts to produce and earn money are the source of our income. The truth, however, is that our spiritual achievements are the real source of blessing. Many factors contribute to success in the marketplace. Someone might be a talented, well-educated, and experienced professional, but if he or she isn’t matched up with the right client, merchandise, employer, or workplace, the income simply won’t come in. Those factors and more are ultimately beyond our control.
One thing, however, is in our control — the way we react to others and our environment. If we have good relationships with others, conduct ourselves morally and spiritually, we can call that personal success. That is also the real source of our blessing. If we practice kindness in our homes, and among people, the result will be that G-d will give us success out in the field. All the factors that are beyond our control will be laid out for us. The salesman will meet up with eager customers, and the customers will be sold good quality, well-priced merchandise.
From the looks of it, this year does not seem to be one of blessing. With most of the world locked down for long periods of time as a result of the pandemic and social distancing, people who depend on human activity for their livelihood are suddenly without a job. Professions that involve close human interaction disappeared overnight, and are only slowly coming back, if at all. This disruption of the modern supply chain has thrown the world’s economy into turmoil.
What should give us hope, though, is the abundance of kindness that has been on display during this period. People have been been reconnecting with friends to find out how they’re faring. Young people have gone out of their way to help the elderly who are afraid to go outside. Now, it’s not just Jews wishing each other “Zei Gezunt — Be Healthy!” Everyone seems to be concerned about the welfare of others. Of course, we can’t forget the heroic efforts of our health workers who have worked around the clock to heal, test, and research a cure for the virus. It’s interesting that “Covid” sounds like the Hebrew word “Kavod,” meaning “Honor.” This is the year we’ve shown honor to each other!
Prosperity comes from concern for other people. If we continue to look out for each other we can look forward to a future of overwhelming blessing. May it come soon! (Based on the writings of Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch zt”l)