Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Cheshvan 5762 - November 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
All for the Good

by L. Jungerman

"And the life of Sorah was -- The years of the life of Sorah were all equal for the good" (Rashi).

R' Yehoshua Moshe Aharonson zt'l, author of Yeshuas Moshe, extracts a most illuminating thought from the above words. In general, the days of the years of people who underwent trying periods in their lifetime are not uniform. They are comprised of two parts: the first consists of the very brunt of the trial, the vortex in which one feels oneself swirling in darkness, helpless to get one's bearings, to know where we shakily stand and where we are headed. The trial seems bad and bitter.

But with time, we enter the second part and we come to realize that it was all for the good. And even if the opportunity to actually feel that all was necessarily for the good is not always eventually apparent, at least we do feel the providential Hand of Hashem, fatherly, soothing and smoothing away the roughness of those tests.

"Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not fear evil for You are with me." (Tehillim 23)

The Chasam Sofer used to explain that verse in the following manner: "`And I shall cover My palm over you until I pass, and you shall see My back (hind), but My face shall not be seen.' After a challenging event in his life, a person can look back with hindsight and veritably see the guiding Hand of his Creator directing everything that happened to him. He can detect the linked Providence that enveloped him.

When can a person best feel Hashem's presence? From "behind." After the act. Only with the passing of time, when things begin to fall into place. With hindsight. But who can presume to second-guess Hashem while he is in the very process of being tested? When all seems gloomy, dreadful, a bottomless abyss? Who can see in such darkness?

With Sorah Imeinu, says HaRav Yehoshua Moshe, it was different. Her name was also Yiscah, for her prophetic vision, her spiritual sense of sight. Sorah's vision was holy and pure, accurate and true to the mark. She was able to see even before. It did not take hindsight for her to realize a design, a pattern and purpose in her tests. She was able to see even beforehand, that is, in the very throes of the difficult nisoyon of barrenness.

Thus, the years of her life were all equal. There was no division, no watershed between the difficult period of barrenness and the years following the birth of Yitzchok, when normally one would bask in the relief, satisfaction and joy of the succor. Not with Sorah. All of her years were equally for the good. She was able to always see only the good and kindness of Hashem pursuing her throughout the days of her life.

The gemora tells that whenever someone came to R' Yochonon ben Zakkai asking that he pray for a sick person, he would place his head between his knees and then commence praying.

R' Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov zy'a notes that the saintly head of R' Yochonon ben Zakkai was in the lofty heavens; he was able to see what others could not. And there, in the spheres of ultimate truth, he saw only good. It was perfectly clear to him that all that Hashem did was only for the good.

According to this vision, R' Yochonon was incapable of praying on behalf of a fellow Jew and his plight. He could not empathize or commiserate with him. He could not feel his distress for it was perfectly clear to him that whatever had befallen the other person, which the latter felt was difficult and painful, was in R' Yochonon's eyes something good -- altogether for his benefit.

What could he do, however, if that unfortunate person did not see it that way and could not fathom that the situation was truly good? In his eyes of flesh, the suffering man could not discern the good; for him, the world was dark and gloomy.

And so, in order to be able to pray for him, R' Yochonon had to bury his head between his knees, to look downward, to see the world as others saw it: a situation that was bad and bitter. Only thus could he pray to Hashem with broken heart on behalf of the supplicant standing before him.

With our limited vision, our fleshly eyes, we often see Hashem's goodness and kindness in past events, only with the reflection of hindsight. That is why we pray, "Do not subject us to trials." With our myopic vision, we can only ask, "Hashem, show us Your kindness." Perform for us those acts of kindness where we are able to see the goodness as we experience them, and not only with the wisdom of hindsight.

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