For the week ending 29 December 2007 / 20 Tevet 5768

Rolling in Dough

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Anonymous
Dear Rabbi,

I own and run a kosher bakery in a small but growing religious Jewish community. I thought initially that the business would be a lot more lucrative than it has turned out to be. Sometimes it gets me down that I have to work such long, difficult hours to barely make ends meet (which I do, thank G-d). What should I do?

Dear Anonymous,

Some people roll in dough, and others roll dough. You certainly have the liberty to change jobs, but since that may not necessarily help, and as long as you remain a baker, I’d like to share a few ideas with you.

The first thing is to remember that a person’s livelihood comes from G-d. Of course, we are encouraged and required to make every reasonable effort to earn a living. But ultimately, the extent to which our endeavors succeed or not depends on G-d.

In your case, as you say, thank G-d, while not rolling in dough, at least you’re making ends meet. You are also providing an invaluable service to the local Jewish community by providing them kosher bread and baked goods which they probably would not be able to attain otherwise. What’s more, as the community continues to grow (partly a function of the availability of the staples of Jewish life, like kosher bread) so will your clientele and income. For these reasons, I think you should keep up the good work.

But there are other considerations as well. Although you may have had in mind rolling in fiscal dough, and thereby view your business as non-lucrative, G-d may have put you in a position to amass great spiritual wealth.

Think about all the blessings people make over the kosher food you provide. You have a great part in all that praise of G-d. Our Torah sources say that the world is sustained in the merit of small children whose mouths, free of sin, utter words of Torah and prayer. The cookies you bake are not just pieces of “carbs” and “cals”. They store of energy which small children use to fuel the world. The greatest of Jewish sages took pride in preparing something for Shabbat. By baking challah for your community you are fulfilling this prized mitzvah many times over, not to mention the spiritual merit of maintaining the kosher laws and enabling others to do so as well.

The following story is told of Rabbi David of Lelov: Once the baker of the town was feeling down about having to work so hard through the night only to earn a few piasters. Rabbi David Lelover (apparently through Divine insight) visited the bakery in the middle of the night in order to lift the baker’s spirits. He said, “In truth, we all want to serve G-d. Sometimes we get confused and think the purpose we do things is for money. But that’s just the yeast in the dough! [by which the Rabbi was referring to the teaching of our Sages which compares the evil inclination to yeast which causes lowly dough to haughtily rise]”.

The Rabbi was trying to remind the baker that he was a baker not only to earn a living, but more importantly, to provide for the needs of His people. This is what G-d set up the baker in business for, and this was the baker’s service of G-d. The baker’s own narrow self-interest limited his calculation of profits. Given the larger picture, he was able to see that through rolling dough he was rolling in spiritual dough.

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