Last week we went to comfort a close friend whose three-and-
a-half year old son was killed in a tragic traffic accident
in Ramat Sholom. A minibus ran him over, as newspapers
reported. But newspapers can't really catch the essence of
an incident that defies verbal description. A three-and-a-
half year old had been run over. But how do we feel upon
learning that when his coat got caught in the door, he
innocently cried out: "Wait a minute. Wait." A pure,
innocent, three-and-a-half year old who had no idea that the
world from which he parted is far more complicated than he
We sit there silently. Only tears speak for us, because what
words of consolation can we offer under such tragic
circumstances. Can we, from our places, say anything?
As if to spare us bewilderment and sorrow, a rabbinical
figure then came in. Although he did not know the child's
parents, he is not unfamiliar with their pain. Three years
previously, a minibus ran over his son in Bnei Brak. Since
then, he and his wife come to console the bereaved, in order
to speak to them when everyone else is silent.
When asked how it is possible to be comforted for such
sorrow, he recited the verse which all of us say when
consoling a mourner: "HaMokom yenachem eschem . . ."
He explained that a person can derive consolation from the
place -- (hamokom) in which he is situated. He
related that when he sat shiva for his son, overcome
by sorrow, many people came to him and talked a lot. But
what comforted him was his view of his own situation, his
place, in contrast to the situations of the people who had
come to comfort him. As a rav, he knew of their sorrows --
some public and others not -- and he knew that from his
place, he could really comfort those who had come to comfort
him. From this knowledge he drew consolation.
When a person looks only at his own troubles, and not at
life from a comprehensive vantage point, he cannot be
consoled. However, when a person accords the calamity its
proper place in his life (to the extent that he can at a
time of sorrow), he can derive consolation from the half-
In order to assist the rav, one of those present cited the
mishna, "Hevei don es ho'odom lechaf zechus," and
asked why it writes "ho'odom" and not "odom?"
His answer was that when looking at a deed in isolation, it
seems impossible to find anything meritorious in something
bad. But if one looks at ho'odom from a comprehensive
point of view -- seeing his other deeds, as well as the
place where he was nurtured, the reasons behind his
behavior, his burdens, and even more so, when one analyses
the nature of ho'odom no matter who he is, it is
possible to see the deed in a different light and to judge
the man favorably.
So it is in respect to sorrow and pain. If we view an event
like the petirah of a tender young child, beloved by
everyone, it is difficult to find a positive aspect in the
occurrence. However, when we expand the scope of our
perspective to life itself, it is indeed possible to find
Some of the visitors tried to discuss the fault of the
driver or the escort, but the father of the child refused to
listen. "Everything is from Shomayim," he said. "Of
course, we have to draw conclusions to take corrective
actions so that such tragedies don't recur. But we know that
this is a decree. We must not sidetrack our thoughts from
the belief that what happened could not have been changed,
otherwise we will torment ourselves for the rest of our
lives with thoughts of how we could have prevented this
These remarks were reinforced by the rabbinical figure who
had begun the conversation. He related that after the
shiva of his son, he and his wife visited the driver,
who was sick over what had occurred. They actually comforted
him, saying that they have nothing against him, and that it
was a decree from Hashem. "Until today, we keep in touch
with him," he said.
This is greatness that cannot be easily understood. But
whoever examines the issue sees that beyond this ethical
magnanimity lies a correct and wise outlook on life. Bereft
parents who lack emunah sometimes lose their
incentive for living, and suffer mental anguish from the
thought of, "how could the tragedy have been prevented," and
"who is to blame." Such people can plunge themselves into a
senseless war against the cause of the death.
The only true way to cope with such death is by reconciling
oneself to it: by realizing that it is something absolute, a
decree from Shomayim. The stronger one's belief in
Hashem Yisborach, the more one is able to reconcile himself
to the facts and accept them as absolute.
A month ago, a fifty-year-old Bnei Brak Jew was
niftar. I met a friend of his and asked if the man
had died due to heart arrest or a stroke. The friend, Reb
Chaim Lorber of ZAKA -- one who encounters death more often
than the rest of us -- told me: "I know for certain that it
wasn't the heart or the brain."
"Then what was it?"
"The Mal'och Hamoves," he said.
"The life span allotted to him had ended, and Hakodosh
Boruch Hu sent the Mal'och Hamoves to take him.
That's all there is to it."
He then related an anecdote told by one of the
gedolim of the previous generation: When one of the
angels was assigned the task of mal'och hamoves, he
found it difficult to accept it, saying that he couldn't
face the suffering and the accusations of the relatives of
the people whose lives he would take -- the children, the
parents who would hate him and remonstrate against him each
time he took their beloved ones and caused them terrible
anguish. Shomayim pacified the mal'och
hamoves, saying: "Don't worry. No one will blame you.
They'll say: it was the heart, the brain, a malignant
illness, an accident, a terrorist attack. Everything will be
blamed, except you. They won't even mention you."
That's the counsel of the yetzer! Its intention is to
cause a lack of faith and at the same time to cause sorrow
to the parents and the family. The only thing that can
counteract the counsel of the yetzer is the firm
confidence that everything has been decreed from Above and
that nothing that we could have done or did not do could
have altered it.
We should adopt such an outlook as an approach to life. We
should see things in correct proportion and accepts them as
decrees, not only in cases of calamity, but in our daily
lives. We should apply it to the insignificant occurrences
which we regard as genuine calamities, such as large
financial losses, failures, or difficult periods in life.
Sometimes one's sorrow over small issues can be so immense
that the only explanation for our feelings is that we lack
proper perspective on the incident vis a vis reality, and
that our feelings stem from our lack of belief that
everything is decreed from Above.