We are told, “All your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven,” and “In all your ways, you shall know Him.”
The Rambam explains, “One should attune all one’s actions to recognizing Hashem alone. One’s resting, rising, speaking, and everything else, should be for this end. How so? When one conducts business deals, or works for payment, one’s intention should not only be to amass money; rather, one should do business or work for payment in order to be able to obtain the things that the body needs, such as food, drink, a house, and a wife.”
There are no exceptions to this rule. We are obligated to treat all our mundane involvements, all our wealth, and every single object that we own, as items to be used to serve Hashem.
Why is it so necessary to have the proper intention in all one’s mundane involvements?
The reason is that the mission of refining the sparks is not purely collective; if it were, although only Jews could refine these sparks, it would be irrelevant which Jews would refine which sparks. Rather, the purpose of the descent of each individual Jew’s soul into a body is to refine specific sparks, a task with which he alone has been charged.
This is the meaning of the statement of our sages, “One person cannot encroach upon that which has been designated for his fellow.” The true reason that our income comes from one source and not another is not the whim of mere mortals, but divine decree alone.
Likewise, Hashem orchestrates our lives such that we live in a specific place, come into contact with specific people, undergo certain experiences, and earn our living in a particular way, in order to enable us to refine our specific quota of sparks. Even if one tries, G–d forbid, one cannot rob another person of the opportunity to refine the sparks that have been predestined for that person to refine.
Thus, the Talmud teaches: "Forty days before the child is formed, a Heavenly voice proclaims that the daughter of so-and-so will be his wife, that a certain house will be his home, and that a certain field will be his field."
This also explains the fact that one may notice an important task that needs to be done that is being overlooked by everyone else, even scholars and leaders far greater than oneself. Hashem is deliberately preventing them from noticing this breach, because it is not their personal task. Instead, Hashem brings someone else, even one of lesser stature, to notice the need because he is meant to accomplish this task. This is the reason that Hashem hid even from Moshe Rabeinu the Halacha concerning how to act when one sees a Jew publicly engaging in relations with a gentile woman, and only Pinchas remembered it—even though Moshe Rabeinu was the one to teach it! Hashem put this thought in Pinchas’ mind because he was meant to carry out this task so that he would acquire the status of a Kohen.
This, the Baal Shem Tov teaches, is also the reason that some people have a natural strong liking for one thing, while another person despises that thing, and has a strong liking for something else.
When you eat, it is not only about satisfying your body’s desires or maintaining its survival; when you sleep, it’s not only about resting your body; when you do business, it’s not about amassing money, whether out of a desire for wealth, or even simply to pay the bills. And the same goes for your possessions: Your cabinet, dining table, pillows, alarm clock—and even apparent luxury items, such as your tennis racket, iPod, and chess set—they all contain sparks of holiness that belong to you and you alone.
This is also the meaning of “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven.” You think that you chose the décor of the lounge room because it looks pretty, that you bought your chess set because you like the marble it’s made of, that you chose to live in the city because you like the hustle and bustle. Think again. The only decision we can truly make is whether to do a Mitzvah or not, or whether to sin or not. And the reason that Hashem is deciding the course that the person takes in the physical world is in order to direct him along the path in which he will have the opportunity to refine the specific sparks of holiness that belong to his soul.
 Avos 2:12.
 Mishlei 3:6.
 Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Dei’os, 3:2.
 Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 12, p. 118.
 Yoma 38b; cf. Rashi there.
 Hisva’aduyos 5749, Vol. 2, p. 480.
 Sotah 2a.
 Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 2, pp. 342-343.
 Bamidbar Rabba 20:24.
 Tzavaas Harivash §109.
 Berachos 33b.
Dedicated by Menachem Kovacs in honor of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin's arrival in New York on 28 Sivan 1941 (70 years ago), which began their countless accomplishments based in the USA.