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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: Why do things happen?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Why do things happen?

In the memory and zchus of the members of the Saba family who died last week

The following is one I came up with last week, and I didn't think it was too great, but some people told me to wrote it anyway. Since the Parsha is still about Moshe and Egypt I hope it won't matter that it is a week late.

אמר לו הקב"ה חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין הרי כמה פעמים נגליתי על אברהם יצחק ויעקב באל שדי ולא הרהרו על מדותי ולא אמרו לי מה שמך אמרתי לאברהם (בראשית יג) קום התהלך בארץ לארכה ולרחבה כי לך אתננה בקש מקום לקבור את שרה ולא מצא עד שקנה בד' מאות שקל כסף ולא הרהר על מדותי אמרתי ליצחק (בראשית כו) גור בארץ הזאת ואהיה עמך ואברכך בקשו עבדיו מים לשתות ולא מצאו עד שעשו מריבה שנאמר (בראשית כו) ויריבו רועי גרר עם רועי יצחק לאמר לנו המים ולא הרהר אחר מדותי אמרתי ליעקב (בראשית כח) הארץ אשר אתה שוכב עליה לך אתננה ביקש מקום לנטוע אהלו ולא מצא עד שקנה במאה קשיטה ולא הרהר אחר מדותי ולא אמרו לי מה שמך (Sanhedrin 111a)

There is a Gemara in Sanhedrin (brought above if you are that way inclined), that explains that G-d got angry when Moshe asked His name, as the Patriarchs had diffculties, yet did not question G-d. Rashi in 6:9 quotes it. When Abraham sought to bury Sarah, he could not bury her until he bought a plot for a very high price from Efron. Similarly, with Isaac, he sought to use wells his own father had dug and was not allowed to by the local shepherds. And also with Jacob, “And he bought the part of the field where he had pitched his tent from the sons of Hamor” (Gen. 33:19).

These are the examples used of Moshe's ancestors not questioning the nature of G-d. But these would seem to be bad examples. If you want to tell me about faith, tell me about the Akeida, he binding of Isaac! Abraham was promised children through Isaac yet was told to murder him. Isaac was told absolutely nothing by G-d, yet did not question anyone and told his father to bind his hands so he would not struggle. Tell Moshe how Jacob reacted to the incidents with Joseph! These are all exceptionally mundane stories, that all happen to be about money and land (that was theoretically theirs already since it had been promised?).

There was a great tragedy last week in Mexico referenced above, and it was very distressing and I was very upset about it for various reasons. I was quite surprised when I stumbled across an excerpt from the Sefer Hachinuch - "A man should know and take to heart that all that happens to him from good to bad is intended to happen to him from Hashem, and from the hand of man...nothing will happen except His will" (Hilchos Nekama).

I was amazed that I found something so relevant to what I needed to hear at that moment, and when I thought of the original question, why bother to talk about the mundane. The Chinuch quote answers it perfectly. It's relatively easy to accept that all things come from G-d. But when the bad happens to involve another persons free will and choice to cause harm, it is suddenly not the hand of G-d any more, it becomes a problem and someone has wronged you.

The Akeida tells us how Abraham had faith, but that is all! G-d spoke to him, there was nothing to question! But when he gets home having passed his test, his wife is dead. And when he attempts to bury her, he is heckled by Efron. Isaac is thirsty, and can't use wells his own father dug. Yakov needs to pay to pitch a tent.

It is with these examples that we see how much faith they really had. When we know someone is watching, or that we are being tested, we put on the best display of our efforts as possible. But these are inaccurate. The true gauge of faith is in the mundane, where we think we are alone.

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