“Teach us, Rebbe,” begged the students of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. “The Talmud tells us that on Rosh Hashanah, G‑d determines a person’s livelihood for the coming year. Yet just a few lines later, the Talmud states that a person’s fortune is The query went unanswereddecided every day anew. How can both statements be true?”

The Baal Shem Tov said nothing, and the query went unanswered.

A few days later, the Baal Shem Tov requested that his coach be prepared for a journey. Together with his students, he rode for a while until reaching a nondescript village. There, the master signaled that the horses should stop and that his students should come with him to speak to an elderly Jewish villager.

Dressed in rags, with a pair of buckets of water resting on his rounded shoulders, the man looked up in surprise at the august group coming his way.

“Shalom, grandfather,” said the Baal Shem Tov. “How are you doing?”

“Oy, may all my enemies have an old age like mine!” the elder replied. “I am old and tired, but I have no choice but to keep on schlepping these buckets of water just to get a crust of bread for my shriveled lips. My balance is not what it was. Sometimes I fall and the water spills, and I need to start again from scratch. Sure, G‑d blessed me with children who could help me, but I rarely see them. Who has time for an old man like me? Oh, how bitter is my lot!” the man finished with a groan.

The Baal Shem Tov wished the man well, and then motioned for his students to accompany him back home.

Several weeks later, the Baal Shem Tov again invited his students for a ride. Once again, they stopped to talk to the old man.

“Dear grandfather,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “how are you doing?”

“Thank G‑d,” said the oldster, flashing a toothless grin, “I am managing to keep body and soul together. Sure, I am old, and I sometimes stumble, but thank G‑d I have Nothing has changed for this old manenough energy to get right up and refill my buckets. Oh, and the joy I get from my children. Thank G‑d, they each have lovely families of their own, but they still help me from time to time.”

“You see,” said the Baal Shem Tov to his students, “nothing changed for this old man. He has the same buckets and the same crusts of bread as the last time we were here. Only his attitude changed. G‑d judges us to determine what he should give us in life. And then there is a second layer of judgment, determining how we are to receive that goodness from G‑d. On Rosh Hashanah, it is decided what we are to receive. Every day, it is decided how we are to receive.”