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(5751) "R. Johanan said: Three keys the Holy One blessed be He has retained in His own hands etc.
In the West they said: Also the Key of Sustenance" (Talmud Taanit 2a) -

Explanation of their debate if Parnasah (Sustenance) is a separate key and the connection to the
debaters R' Johanan and the Benei Maaravah (Sages of the West).

The connection to Chai Elul - the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe

R. Johanan said: Three keys the Holy One blessed be He has retained in His own hands and not
entrusted to the hand of any messenger, namely, the Key of Rain, the Key of Childbirth, and the Key
of the Revival of the Dead.

The Key of Rain, for It is written, The L-rd will open unto you His good treasure, the heaven to give the rain of thy land in its season,

The Key of Childbirth, for it is written, And G-d remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

The Key of the Revival of the Dead, for it is written, And you shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have opened your graves.

In the West (Eretz Yisroel) they said: Also the Key of Sustenance, for it is said, Thou openest thy hand etc.

Why does not R. Johanan include also this key? — Because in his view sustenance is included in Rain.



1. R’ Yochanan said: Three keys the Holy One blessed be He has retained in His own hands and not

entrusted to the hand of any messenger, namely, the Key of Rain, the Key of Childbirth, and the Key
of the Revival of the Dead. The Key of Rain, for it is written, ‘The L-rd will open unto you His good treasure, the heaven to give the rain of thy land in its season’ etc. In the West they said (The Bnei Maaravah –Sages of Eretz Yisroel): Also the Key of Parnassah (sustenance), for it is said: ‘You open Your hand etc.’ Why does not R’ Yochanan include also this key? — because in his view Parnassah is (included) in Rain.”

At first glance it appears that R’ Yochanan is speaking in general, and in a general manner: “Rain is Parnassah”, as Rashi states: “For plants and fruits grow from them (rains) to sustain the world”.

(However) in the West, they (the Bnei Maaravah) further subdivide it. Therefore, they count Parnassah as an independent key.

For even though, in general, rain is the source of the world’s sustenance, nevertheless, since, in particular, there is Parnassah that does not come from rain,

 (and also the opposite – there are rains that do not appear to directly affect Parnassah , for they do not fall in an appropriate measure for plants and fruits to grow from them)

they therefore consider Parnassah, as a distinct key.

2. One could say that the rationale of the debate can be explained by prefacing the answer of the commentators on the words of R’ Yochanan: “He will say to you: ‘Rain is Parnassah’”

For R’ Yochanan himself states further (in the Talmud):

“Rain (matar) falls even for the sake of an individual but Parnassah (sustenance) (is granted) only for the sake of the many.

Rain falls for the sake of an individual as it states: “The L-rd will open unto you his good treasure”,

(However) Parnassah is for the sake of the many, as it states: “Behold I will cause to rain bread for you”.

Thus, even according to R’ Yochanan, Rain and Parnassah are two different things.

One could say, according to Rashi’s explanation of the words of the Talmud there:

“Rain is for the sake of an individual, for if Rain is not needed except for one person, for example, for one who planted after the normal planting season, or for one who resides in a city that is totally non-Jewish and he needs rain – then it will fall in his merit.

(However) Parnassah is an abundant effluence and vitality for the entire world. It does not come into the world in the merit of an individual, but for the sake of many. For if many need sustenance, that a blessing should be sent on the produce, G-d does this if they merit it. However, if an individual needs that his produce be blessed, G-d does not change the judgment of the year for his behalf, but rather according to its blessings. And even though He causes rain to fall for the sake of an individual, in order to improve his crops – that they should not be worse than the other people’s – He will not make his field into a plentiful field (sdei sova)”

that accordingly, it is understood that the intent of ‘Parnassah’ there (in that section of Talmud), is (in regards to) a special effluence which is in the manner of abundance (sova). Therefore it is understood that only in this manner are Parnassah and Rain (considered) two things.

In the Chiddushei Aggadot of the Maharsha there, he explains that:

“Rain which is only a necessity/means for Parnassah, and is given naturally from the sky – if an individual needs it – it is given in his merit.

However Parnassah, itself, in a manner that it should come from heaven – like Manna and the Well (of Miriam) – is a miraculous thing and only comes for the sake of many.”

According to this, it is possible to explain the difference between the view of R’ Yochanan and the Bnei Maaravah.

·         R’ Yochanan who holds that ‘Rain is Parnassah’ speaks about normal Parnassah, not in the manner of a special abundance, and not a Parnassah that comes in a revealed manner from Above.


·         However, Bnei Maaravah - who consider Parnassah as a separate thing, speak about a Parnassah that is a special effluence from G-d, one that does not come except for the sake of many.

However, according to this, the question of the Talmud: “Why does not R’ Yochanan include also this?” still remains.

In other words, Why does R’ Yochanan only consider the (normal) Parnassah that is included in Rain (and therefore there are only three keys here,)

but he does not consider this (aforementioned aspect of special) Parnassah which is not included in “Rain“ and is an independent key that comes from G-d and was not entrusted to a messenger?

3. Therefore it appears that R’ Yochanan and the Bnei Maaravah are both speaking about ( a normal)  type of “Parnassah“ but that they argue in the rationale whether, Parnassah requires a special “key” or whether it is included in the “key” of Rain.

The explanation is:

Rain and Parnassah, in general, are descriptions for the effluence of sustenance and the needs of a person.

The difference between them is:

·         Rain depicts an effluence of Parnassah from Above (as it states): “And I will give your rains in their seasons”

·         Parnassah, in general, depicts the receipt of the effluence, that the person is provided for (misparneis) and sustained from this effluence.

And this is also plainly seen, for Rain comes from Above and effects growth, whereas Parnassah comes through work and the actions of the person: plowing, sowing, reaping etc.

Accordingly the difference between R’ Yochanan and the Bnei Maaravah is:

·         R’ Yochanan speaks about “keys” comprised of things the way they come from G-d, the Giver. Therefore he only considers Rain and not Parnassah (for Parnassah is not an effluence from G-d directly, but it refers to a person’s labor that is the vehicle for G-d’s effluence)


·         Bnei Maaravah, however, speak even according to the way it is by the recipient, the way that the effluence of sustenance (mazon) becomes Parnassah. Therefore they also consider Parnassah (as a key).

[Accordingly, the correlation to the number of keys also makes sense:

According to R’ Yochanan there are three keys and according to the Bnei Maaravah there are four:

The difference between the letter Gimmel (three) and the letter Dalet (four) is (as it states in the Talmud) –

·         The letter Gimmel refers to “Gomel Dalim” (giving to the poor). In other words, the letter Gimmel depicts the cause of the effluence, the “Bestower of kindness” (gomel chasadim)


·         The letter Dalet refers to the “poor” (dalim), the receivers of the effluence.

And from this it is also understood regarding the gematria (numerical value) of these letters – three and four:

·         The number three depicts the giving, as it from the perspective of the giver (“Gomel”)

·         The number four depicts the way it is from the perspective of the recipient (the “Dalim”)]

4. But it still requires clarification:

For the theme of this topic in Talmud concerns the “keys that are in the Hand of G-d and not
entrusted to the hand of any messenger”.

In other words, the nature of these “keys” is that they all come from G-d, and there is no intermediary hand, in between.

Therefore, what is the explanation of  (the statement): “In the West they said: Also the Key of Sustenance”?

For this means that they consider Parnassah to be an independent key because Parnassah is a thing that is dependent and appropriate to the person’s Avodah (and therefore it is not part of the key of Rain)

If so, how is it possible to say that this is a “key” that is only in the Hand of G-d?

One could explain this by first prefacing that which the Sages states regarding the reason that rain falls from Above. For one of the reasons is that: “So everyone will cast their eyes to Heaven”. In other words, the reason that people’s Parnassah is dependent upon Rain that comes from above, and not via something that man himself can accomplish,

(as was in Eqypt, where the irrigation of the fields was “with your feet” (via the Nile river))

is because it causes the proper realization that all one’s Parnassah and livelihood (and not just the rain) comes from G-d Himself.

And this is advantage of Eretz Yisroel over other lands, for “Eretz Yisroel is irrigated by G-d himself, whereas (the rest of) the entire world is through a messenger”. For in Eretz Yisroel, it is visibly recognizable that all effluences of vitality from Above are directly and only through G-d, whereas in the Diaspora, one could err that a “messenger” or even a one’s ability etc. also have an effect (tefisas makom/grasp) there.

And from this one can also understand our subject:

The reason (it states) that the key of Rain was not entrusted to a messenger (and “Rain is Parnassah) is because, truthfully, all one’s Parnassah comes only from G-d, in a manner that nothing beside Him can affect it, not even the trappings of nature that a person undertakes in order to enable him to receive his Parnassah, through them, from G-d.

And this (is the meaning of the verse in Tehilim): “Man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening”. For the activity of Parnassah is just in order to fulfill the command of G-d: “And the L-rd your G-d will bless you in all that you do” and “Six days may you work and perform all you labor”.


Not only does one realize that the source of the effluence comes from Above,

(as it states): “The blessing of G-d makes one wealthy” and all of one’s actions are just to make a “receptacle (kli kaballah) for the blessing of G-d (similar to the jug of oil in Eiisha’s miracle – where the whole endeavor was just to receive the miraculous oil),

but more than this:  (One realizes that) even the “receptacles” (keilim – the means of one’s Parnassah) do not have distinction (chashivus) even as being (actual) “receptacles” (or trappings) to contain the blessings of G-d. One only does them (the types of work, solely) because of the command of G-d. Therefore they are entirely subordinate (tafel) to the blessing of G-d, which is a blessing completely above the confines of nature.

5. However, this realization itself can be manifested in two ways:

1)      A person’s activities of man and the trappings of nature (to obtain Parnassah) do not have any distinction at all. For just as miraculous conduct actually shows and reveals that the laws of nature do not have any existence (metzius) – it is also, in the actual same manner, when the effluence from G-d comes through the trappings of nature (levushei hateva). (Even in this situation) it is similar to the Manna that fell from the sky.


2)      Even though a person’s activities and the means (kli) that he uses (to obtain Parnassah) do not have any importance (tefisas makom) in and of themselves, and he just does this because of the command of G-d – nevertheless, precisely because G-d commanded (him to make a receptacle) they have a distinction, for through them, one fulfills the will of G-d.


One has belief with complete certainty that everything comes from G-d, and therefore he has complete trust in G-d, that He will give him everything from His full, open, holy and broad Hand (miYado haMelaiya, haPesucha haKedosha, v’Harchava). But he also knows that since G-d commanded that he do this activity within nature (teva), that there is a specific reason (kavana) for this (labor to earn Parnassah).  It is, namely, in order to know and perceive that even nature itself and man’s dealing with it - come from G-d, in addition to the essential effluence (etzem haHashpa’ah) that comes from G-d.

And one could say that this is the two perspectives of whether the key of Parnassah is considered an individual key or whether it is included in the key of Rain:

·         R’ Yochanan holds that “Rain (also) is Parnassah“. For all the trappings of nature and also the labors of a person within it, do not have significance (tefisas makom) at all – and the lesson (ka mashma lan) is that together with the aspect of Parnassah, all of one’s activities in this are just a part of G-d’s effluence to man.


·         Bnei Maaravah hold that even Parnassah (is a distinct key) for it states: “Open Your Hand etc.” (Poteiach et Yadecha). In other words - even man’s endeavors in obtaining Parnassah also come from G-d and they are an independent aspect. And this also is relevant to one’s knowing and recognizing that the trappings of nature and one’s labors are not just something that is insignificant, but that they too come from G-d.

6. According to this, the connection to the personages of the debate, is clear:

The Sages state: “one who sees Yochanan in a dream will have abundant miracles (nisei nisim) performed for him”

(For a name that contains one (letter) Nun indicates one miracle and a name that contains more than one Nun indicates numerous miracles).

Therefore R’ Yochanan holds that ‘Parnassah is included in Rain’. For since his level is– “abundant miracles” – he sees in every aspect of the world, just the miracle in it.

And this is the aspect of “abundant miracles” -  that the miracle is not just in the thing, that one visibly sees superseding the order of nature, but also (the miracle is) within the conduct of nature. For according to the level of R’ Yochanan this is inwardly (also) just a miracle that comes from Above.

However “in the West they say” that the key of Rain is an independent key. For “West” (Ma’arava) refers to a specific location in the world. And the Sages say, the Divine Presence is in the west. In other words, even though “G-d’s glory fills the world” and the Sages further say that: “There is no place devoid of Him”,

 meaning that the entire existence of place is nullified to Him,

nevertheless, “the Divine Presence is in the west”. For this “place” has a special resting (of G-dliness), so much so, that the entity of the place itself is G-dliness. Therefore the people of the “West” (Ma’arava) hold that even the trappings of nature, “Parnassah“ are an independent aspect which is in the Hand of G-d.

7. Chai Elul – the birthday of the two great luminaries: the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe – occurs in most years in the week (or on Shabbat Kodesh) of Parshat Tavo. And the nature of the two birthday celebrators corresponds to the two aforementioned ways of Avodat HaShem:

·         Through the Baal Shem Tov in the general Torat HaChasidut (Torat HaChasidut haKlalit).

·         And through the Alter Rebbe in the general Torat Chasidut Chabad.

The innovation that was revealed through the Baal Shem Tov in Torat HaChasidut haKlalit is:  an additional general vitality in fulfilling Torah and Mitzvot.

Therefore, one of the aspects that were emphasized in Torat HaChasidut haKlalit is the aspect of faith, (as it states in Chabakuk 2:4): “But the righteous shall live by his faith” ("v'Tzadik be'Emunaso Yichyeh).

But this faith is of a general nature (klali) and is of a transcendental level (bechinat makkif).

In other words, even when the faith manifests itself in a manner that it is not truly transcendental,

(i.e. that it has no effect on the person – (for example) “A thief on the threshold (of a site) calls for Hashem's help” (ganva apum machtarta Rachmana karya).

Note: Belief sometimes remains aloofly transcendent, instead of becoming integrated within one's conscious thinking processes. This can result in the action of a thief who calls out to G-d to make his endeavors prosper! To be consistent, surely he should either rob or pray. But both?! Chassidus explains that his simultaneous self-contradiction does not mean that he is without belief: the problem is only that his belief remains vague, distant and academic, instead of becoming integrated into his conscious thinking.)

but it causes that one has vitality (chayut) in all of his aspects,

so much so that it (has an effect on ) actual conduct,

nevertheless, all of his powers (kochot) are not an independent aspect but a part in the revelation of the faith.

The Alter Rebbe with the revelation of Torat Chasidut Chabad

 (in conjunction to the revelation of Torat HaChasidut haKlalit of the Baal Shem Tov)

innovated that, not only should the essential point of faith be felt in one’s intellect (Chabad), but also that it become an independent aspect,

for the entire essence of the intellect of one’s soul (Chabad ) is to understand G-dliness. Similarly the middos (characteristics) of the heart is not just a place that reveals the core of faith (a part of the revelation of faith) but it is their actual existence – love of G-d and fear of G-d.

And this too is in conjunction to the revelation of the unity of G-d, the way it was revealed by the Baal Shem Tov and as it continued and was revealed by the Alter Rebbe:

·         The Baal Shem Tov revealed that there is “None beside Him” (ein od milvado), that there is no entity besides Him. And this is also felt in one’s Avodat HaShem, that there is no significance (tefisas makom) to his Avodah (his ego), but rather, one’s entire being is the revelation of the core of faith in his soul, which every Jew possesses from his soul, which is above the existence (metztiut) of the person.


·         And through the Alter Rebbe, the aspect of Unity of G-d was revealed, also from the perspective of the world. That, not that the world not a contradiction to the Unity of G-d, but rather that through the world, the depth of G-d’s Oneness is revealed. For the existence of the world is bound to Him, as it is explained in the Alter Rebbe’s Sh’ar HaYichud v’haEmunah.

And so too is it in Avodat HaAdam:

(One must endeavor to achieve) that not only are all one’s powers in accordance with the core of faith in HaShem Echad (the one true G-d), but that this is the entire existence of his intellect – namely, that intellect itself, by its very nature, recognizes and feels the Unity of G-d, from its very existence; that the existence of intellect itself is not a thing that is separate from G-d. And this is in all of the powers of his soul.

And this comes about specifically through effort and Avodat HaAdam, Avodah with one’s own powers (Avodah b’koach atzmo) specifically, to understand and comprehend the Unity of G-d with his own intellect, and even with the intellect of his animal soul (nefesh habahamit). And through contemplation (hisboneneut) it will affect his middos – love of G-d and fear of G-d, in a manner that the love and fear have a connection to the existence of the characteristics (middos) of the heart. And also in all the powers of his soul – that it be visible and recognizable that the true existence of every power of the soul is G-dliness at its essence.

And through spreading your wellsprings (of the Baal Shem Tov) outward (Chutzah), which is accomplished (primarily) through its being drawn into the intellect (Chabad) of the soul via Torat Chasidut Chabad, and from it to middos and (further, as it states): ‘The (life-force) of the heart flows to all the limbs/parts’ (liba paleg lechol sheifin). (that through this) the master – King Moshiach - will come, immediately and instantly, mamosh.

M’Sichas Shabat Parshat Balak 5741

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