כַּךְ הִיא דַּרְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, פַּת בַּמֶּלַח תֹּאכֵל וּמַיִם בַּמְּשׂוּרָה תִּשְׁתֶּה וְעַל הָאָרֶץ תִּישָׁן וְחַיֵּי צַעַר תִּחְיֶה וּבַתּוֹרָה אַתָּה עָמֵל אִם אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה כֵּן אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ אַשְׁרֶיךָ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְטוֹב לָךְ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא:
אַל תְּבַקֵּשׁ גְּדֻלָּה לְעַצְמְךָ, וְאַל תַּחְמוֹד כָּבוֹד יוֹתֵר מִלִּמּוּדֶךָ. עֲשֵׂה, וְאַל תִּתְאַוֶּה לְשֻׁלְחָנָם שֶׁל שָׂרִים, שֶׁשֻּׁלְחָנְךָ גָּדוֹל מִשֻּׁלְחָנָם וְכִתְרְךָ גָּדוֹל מִכִּתְרָם, וְנֶאֱמָן הוּא בַּעַל מְלַאכְתְּךָ שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּם לְךָ שְׂכַר פְּעֻלָּתֶךָ:
Thus is the way of Torah: Bread with salt you shall eat, measured water you shall drink, on the ground you shall sleep, and a life of privation you shall live, while in the Torah you shall labor. If you do so, “You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” (Psalms 128:2). “You shall be happy” – in this world; “and it shall be well with you” – in the World to Come.
Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not crave honor more than your knowledge. Let action [exceed your learning]. And do not desire the table of kings – for your table is greater than their table, your crown is greater than their crown, and your Employer can be relied upon to reward your deeds.
Digest of Commentaries:
Measured water you shall drink. The Hebrew word mesurah (“measured”) denotes a small liquid measure, as mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel (4:11), “And water in small measure shall you drink.”
On the ground you shall sleep, and a life of privation you shall live, while in the Torah you shall labor. Even if you have nothing to eat but bread and salt, do not desist from studying the Torah (Rashi). Others interpret this teaching as addressing the affluent. Those who possess the means to pursue the pleasures of this world should not be fooled by material pleasures, but strive to acquire the wisdom of the Torah (Midrash Shmuel).
Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not crave honor more than your knowledge. Once you have dedicated yourself to the Torah, do not seek power or honor, which would make it appear as if you are studying for ulterior motives (Rashi).
Do not desire the table of kings – for your table is greater than their table. Your table in the World to Come is greater than the table of kings in this world.
Eye on the Goal
Rebbe Nachman: One can become a vessel fit for holiness only by overcoming many obstacles in his quest for God (Likutey Halakhot, Nizkey Shekhenim 3:8).
“You shall be happy” – in this world
Rebbe Nachman: Most people find this teaching difficult to understand. After describing the struggles we must endure for the Torah – “Bread with salt you shall eat, measured water you shall drink, on the ground you shall sleep, and a life of privation you shall live, while in the Torah you shall labor” – how can the Sages say, “'You shall be happy' – in this world”?
However, there really is no question. Anyone who has eyes to see and a heart to understand knows that this teaching means exactly what it says; and he can explain it to any intelligent person who has had the least bit of familiarity with the “good life” of this world.
The wealthiest men will tell you that this world is full of worry and suffering. The rich suffer all the time, every day and every hour. Thus our Sages observe, “The more possessions, the more worry” (Avot 2:7).
The poor may not realize this. They may think that if they were wealthy, they would no longer have any problems. But they are greatly mistaken, as we can plainly see. The truth is as our Sages have taught.
Whether you are rich or poor, you cannot avoid worry. The world is filled with pain and suffering, and there is no escape. If you are a man, you must worry about earning a living, and you may suffer because of your wife and children. If you are a woman, you may feel that your husband is the cause of your unhappiness, or you may suffer from physical maladies. Many people suffer from sickness or severe injuries, may God spare us. There is no escape—except to the Torah.
If you desire the good of this world and wish to live in tranquility, free of distress, you will be constantly frustrated. The more you seek the “good life,” the more you will find the opposite. Even if you manage to attain some fleeting happiness, whatever you grasp will be commingled with suffering. Look truthfully, and you will see this for yourself.
Consequently, in this world, “there is no wisdom, understanding or advice” (Proverbs ) if you wish to live in tranquility. Instead, you should live in the simplest way possible, subsisting on an absolute minimum, as Pirkey Avot advises, “Bread with salt you shall eat … and a life of privation you shall live.” Accept hardship and privation in order to labor in Torah. Only then will you know true life, even in this world. “If you do so, ‘You shall be happy … in this world.’” This is certainly true.
No longer will you suffer from worldly misfortunes. You will have already accepted them upon yourself for the sake of the Torah, which is the true good. Thus your life will be a true life, and you will find happiness even in this world (based on Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #308, abridged).