This is a question I've been wondering about for a few years. I've not been having an easy time in life, and that's why I have started asking this question. I'm sort of waiting for a "salvation", but according to the normal course of events and the current trajectory I'm on, things won't change unless there is some salvation.

Now although the question is comes from an emotional place, the question itself is very logical. If God were to 'owe' us a base level of things which would make a normal person happy, it would follow that I can expect that from him. If not, I'd assume I'd need to adjust my expectations accordingly so I don't keep getting let down when things don't go the way I want, and I'd also adjust my lifestyle accordingly to adapt for this.

Would love sources for this if possible as well.

  • 1
    "Owe" us according to who?
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 15:33
  • 1
    Torah? Is there another option?
    – Someone
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 16:33
  • 1
    The question is, what do you owe G-d?
    – Jonathan
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 4:40
  • Us? who is "us"? Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 17:05

4 Answers 4


Reward and punishment is a basic belief of Judaism so if someone does the right things he is owed their reward.

The question is if will be given or can there be any expectation of it in this world. The answer seems to be for the most part, no.It depends on pre determined mazal and other factors.

The Gemara Moed Katan 28A says:

אמר רבא חיי בני ומזוני לא בזכותא תליא מילתא אלא במזלא תליא מילתא דהא רבה ורב חסדא תרוייהו רבנן צדיקי הוו מר מצלי ואתי מיטרא ומר מצלי ואתי מיטרא Rava said: Length of life, children, and sustenance do not depend on one’s merit, but rather they depend upon fate. As, Rabba and Rav Ḥisda were both pious Sages; one Sage would pray during a drought and rain would fall, and the other Sage would pray and rain would fall.

Even so the Gemara continues

רב חסדא חיה תשעין ותרתין שנין רבה חיה ארבעין בי רב חסדא שיתין הלולי בי רבה שיתין תיכלי בי רב חסדא סמידא לכלבי ולא מתבעי בי רבה נהמא דשערי לאינשי ולא משתכח Nevertheless, their lives were very different. Rav Ḥisda lived for ninety-two years, whereas Rabba lived for only forty years. The house of Rav Ḥisda celebrated sixty wedding feasts, whereas the house of Rabba experienced sixty calamities. In the house of Rav Ḥisda there was bread from the finest flour [semida] even for the dogs, and it was not asked after, as there was so much food. In the house of Rabba, on the other hand, there was coarse barley bread even for people, and it was not found in sufficient quantities.

This shows that the length of life, children, and sustenance all depend not upon one’s merit, but upon fate.

Tosfos says that with great merit one can change his mazal/fate but apparently there can be no expectation of doing so because Rabba was certainly a person of great merit

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer.
    – Someone
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 20:47

The Torah says:

If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them, I will give your rains in their time, the land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give forth its fruit… You will eat your food to satiety, and you will live in security in your land. And I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten [you]. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and no army will pass through your land… I will make you fruitful and increase you… And I will place My dwelling in your midst… I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from being slaves to them, and I broke the pegs of your yoke and led you upright. [Lev 26:3-13]

So the path is clear. A promise by God is something God owes us, if we do our part.


The question is a bit confusing. What does it mean for G-d to "owe" us something? This can be addressed in a few different ways:

1) There's a medrash Rabbah (in Vayikra, I don't remember exactly where) which discusses how any mitzvah we do is only after we received from G-d. i.e.- you can only put a mezuzah on a house after G-d gave you the house. You can make a bracha on food only after G-d gave you the food to eat. etc.

Based on this, G-d can't owe us anything. All that we do is try to use those things which G-d has already given us and show that we're using it the best that we can.

It's comparable to a worker who has a credit card, paid for by his company, for business expenses. If one day they decide to stop paying for the card, he can't claim "You owe me to continue paying for the card. See, each month I've fully detailed expenses and everything has been for the sake of the company!" That claim is irrelevant. The fact that he has faithfully used the card in the past only justifies why they have paid in the past. But that in no way creates an obligation regarding the future.

Likewise, no matter how righteous we have been and how well we have used the resources granted to us, that only justifies G-d's giving to us in the past. We can't claim "you owe us for the future" as well. Why should G-d owe us?

2) There's a famous question asked, whose answer is relevant to you. In the desert, the Jewish people received 3 special gifts- the "mann" (heavenly sustanence), the well which supplied water, and the clouds of glory. Of all three, we only commemorate the clouds of glory with a holiday- sukkos. Why don't we commemorate the mann and the well?

Some commentators explain (I believe I saw this in the bnei yissachar, and I saw it quoted in the name of the Chida and Ohr HaChayim though I don't know where) Hashem "owed" the Jewish people mann and the well. After all, he took us out to the desert. Since he took us from mitzraim (Egypt) and brought us to a place without food, he was obligated to sustain us. It's simple justice- you need to sustain those who are dependent on you. But the clouds of glory- that was a special miracle which didn't have to occur. We could have survived without it. Since it wasn't necessary, and G-d gave it to us anyway, it deserves special recognition.

According to this, there is room to say that G-d "owes" us the minimum we need to survive. Of course, this doesn't help us much practically. First, we don't know what is the minimum- maybe we've already received it, Second, perhaps we've done sins which have made us unworthy.

3) As the Ramchal explains (beginning of mesilas yesharim, also in daas tevunos and other places) Hashem created us in order to do good and benificant. That's our purpose- we're in this world to perfect ourselves and come closer to G-d (both in this world and the next.) Such closeness is the ultimate good G-d could give. But like any relationship, we develop our side of the connection through fulfilling the mitzvos, working on self-development and making ourselves worthy of being so connected.

According to this perspective, your 2 initial points are both true. G-d does provide what we need. He does take care of us. But, what we need (to work on self perfection and to fulfill our purpose in this world and obtain the ultimate good) is not the same as what we want.

We all know of plenty of people who suffered tremendous accidents, and as a result ending up accomplishing much more after they became handicapped than they ever would have had they stayed healthy. If you'd ask them initially, they would have said that potential growth isn't worth the suffering. But after they grew from the challenge, they almost always acknowledge that without the accident and the disability they never would have accomplished as much as they did.

According to this point, the question of G-d owing is irrelevant. Even if He does owe us, since he created us (as per #2 above) he would only owe use what would bring us to the ultimate good- which might be very different than what we think He owes us.

in short- no matter which perspective you choose, G-d doesn't owe us anything specific that I could demand, or get upset if I didn't receive it.

  • 1
    Nice answer! It looks like you got cut off somehow, though - you seem to end in the middle of a sentence.
    – Rish
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 21:56
  • @Rish thanks for the heads up. I was cut off and had forgotten to go back and finish it. I just edited it now.
    – Binyomin
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 22:11

According to Maimonides, G-d is not involved in the world.[1] Thus, G-d promised nothing per se. A rational approach would be that people should work to create a messianic age, not sit back passively, expecting G-d to perform a miracle. Indeed, we are told not to rely on miracles.[2] However, G-d does help people who help themselves.

[1] Rambam understood that whenever Scripture said that G-d did something it does not mean that G-d was directly involved in altering events (Guide, 2:48)

[2] The Encyclopedia Talmudit (talmudic encyclopedia) (1:679–681) explains the Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:4, bases on Deuteronomy 6:16 to mean, “You should not try the L-rd your G-d.”

  • @TurkHill beta.hebrewbooks.org/… I see nothing of what you said there. It is 2:48
    – interested
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 20:06
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 20:26
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    Your answer is inherently self-contradictory. "G-d is not involved in the world" and "G-d does help people who help themselves" are opposite. Either God is involved, or isn't. And that's besides for your wild mischaracterizations of Maimonides. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 20:36
  • @kouty Yes, I agree with you. G-d did create the world. The word "he says" "he ordered" was written in the Torah because "it is in the language of man."
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 22:43
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    @TurkHill Rabbi Micah Goodman stands in opposition to thousands of people who studied Rambam's writings over many centuries. Most people believe he's just plain wrong. To quote his interpretation as "Maimonides says" without qualifying it with "According to Rabbi Micah Goodman" is dishonest.
    – Heshy
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 22:49

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