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Everything Is For the GoodAdapted from Shomer Emunim by Rebbe Aharon Rotte, zt"l, (Derush HaBitachon, chaps. 7-9)
In order to understand the concepts mentioned in Shomer Emunim, we must first make ourselves acquainted with two gemaros:
We learned in the name of R. Akiva, "A person should always be in the habit of saying, 'Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good.'" For instance, when R. Akiva was traveling on the road, he came to a certain town and decided to spend the night there. When no one would take him in, he said to himself, "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." He went and slept in the forest. He had with him a rooster, a donkey, and a candle. The wind came and blew out the candle, a wildcat came and ate the rooster, and a lion came and ate the donkey. He said, "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." That night soldiers came and took the whole town into captivity. He said to them (his talmidim), "Didn't I tell you, everything that HaKadosh Baruch Hu does is for the good?" (If the candle had been lit, the soldiers would have seen me, and if the donkey had brayed or the rooster crowed, the soldiers would have come and captured me - Rashi.)
Why was Nachum Ish Gamzu called by this name? Because on everything that happened to him, he said, "Gam zu I'tovah" (âí æå ìèåáä), "This too is for the good" (therefore he was called Nachum, the man of "This too"). Once, the Jews wanted to send a present to the Caesar. They asked themselves who should go to deliver it for them. They decided to send Nachum Ish Gamzu, because he was used to miracles. They sent him with a chest full of precious jewels and pearls. As he was traveling, he stayed at a certain inn. That night the innkeepers got up, emptied out the chest, and filled it up with dirt. The next day, when he saw this, he said, "This too is for the good." When he arrived at the palace of the Caesar, he opened the chest. Seeing that it was filled with dirt, the Caesar wanted to kill all the Jews. He said, "The Jews are making fun of me." Nachum said, "This too is for the good." Eliyahu HaNavi came disguised as one of the courtiers. He said to the Caesar, "Perhaps this is the dirt that Avraham their father used. When he threw it, the dirt turned into swords and the straw turned into arrows." There was one country that the Caesar was unable to conquer. He went and tried out the dirt there and it enabled him to conquer them. He came back to the palace and went into his treasure-house and filled the chest with precious jewels and pearls and sent Nachum back home with great honor. On the way back he again stayed over in that inn. They asked him, "What happened to you, that they honored you so much?" He answered them, "What I took from here I brought to them." Consequently, the innkeepers tore down their whole inn and brought the dirt to the Caesar. They said, "That dirt that Nachum brought you was from us." They tried it out and it didn't work, so they executed the innkeeper.³
You should know [writes the Shomer Emunim] that it is cited in the name of the Ba'al Shem Tov that bitachon has two levels, that of "This too is for the good," and that of "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." And there is a fundamental difference between them. "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good" implies that evil cannot come from God, but only love and goodness. However, as the good travels down to reach our lowly world, many impure forces come with their accusations caused by our many sins, and the good is reversed. However, they are really waiting in Heaven to see the faith of this person. If he remains strong in bitachon and emunah that God would not send him anything bad, then definitely this evil will bring forth good and it eventually will turn around. It's just that the good hasn't been demonstrated yet. Through emunah and bitachon, the strict judgment is sweetened and turned to mercy, and the person merits having it turned into good. Then the good and the salvation are revealed to him. However, if he doesn't accept it....
The category of "This too is for the good" is a deeper one. It is when one believes with such great faith that all his suffering is in reality a wonderful benefit and was never bad at all.
These are very deep concepts, but perhaps we can, with God's help, explain them a bit. Let us say, for example, that suddenly a person loses money or experiences suffering. On the first level, he should believe with perfect faith that nothing bad can come from God, even though he is suffering right now. Out of this suffering will definitely come forth good for him. Sometimes a certain good is decreed upon the person, either physical or spiritual. But his actions do not merit his receiving the good yet. Then he is sent suffering. This is preparation for him to receive the good from God. This is the case only if he doesn't destroy everything with his thoughts, and if he doesn't complain like a fool. Then definitely, without a doubt, good will come out of this, with God's help.
The second level is slightly different. For this a person has to be completely engrossed in faith in hashgachah pratis. He has to know and believe that the essence of this existence is not physical, but spiritual. At each step that the person takes there is some purpose, something in Creation to rectify. Sometimes this occurs through a mitzvah, sometimes through Torah, sometimes through tefillah. And sometimes the precious time has come to lift up a holy spark which has sunk into spiritual desolation. Or perhaps one's personal faults have caused him to descend there, and it is impossible to lift himself up without suffering. If the person accepts all this with joy, then not only will these sufferings be a stepping stone for his good, but rather, these sufferings themselves will become a bright and magnificent light for him and perhaps the entire world.
We can illustrate this concept with a moshol. Imagine a person with a toothache, who goes to the dentist to relieve the pain. There are two possibilities. The dentist can work to correct a problem within the tooth itself, i.e., a cavity or an infection. Even though this causes pain, the person is willing to accept it because this is the way to heal the problem and enable him to have a strong and healthy tooth. This involves benefit to the object itself. It can also be that the infected tooth was affecting the rest of his teeth, in which case it would be necessary to remove it in order that the rest of his teeth not become ruined. Then the suffering incurred by the removal of this tooth is not for the sake of the tooth itself, but rather for the benefit of the other teeth. Here too it is difficult for him to bear the pain of the dentist's treatment, but he accepts it for the eventual good that will come from it.
So, too, if a person sins against God, then one sin leads to another and, God forbid, this eventually can lead to other terrible and greater transgressions. The punishment for this can be terrible and dreadful, God forbid. Then God, in His great mercy, sends the person some suffering to cleanse him of his impurity in order that the person realize that he has done something wrong, and return to the right path. If he returns and accepts the Divine Judgment with love, then he is forgiven and through this enters into the boundaries of holiness. Sometimes, the Creator appraises the impurity and must cause the person suffering for an extended period. He cries out but is not answered immediately. The Holy One, blessed be He, is sending him this relatively small amount of torment in order to save him from even greater and more dreadful suffering. The purpose of these torments is to save him from other, greater suffering in this world or the next. This is the level of "Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good." One should believe that through this suffering will come good.
However, sometimes the torment is for a purpose and benefit in itself. Perhaps it is to cleanse his soul from all blemishes in order that it is totally pure before God and able to be imbued with the light of Torah and service to God. This level cannot be acquired without suffering to purify the person from his attachment to the physical. In such a case, the suffering has a purpose in and of itself, and it is not coming for the benefit of something else. This second category is the level of "This too is for the good," where the suffering is not to protect him from imminent punishment, but to purify him and illuminate his soul. Here not only will good eventually come out of his suffering, but the suffering itself is good. For example, in the incident of R. Akiva, not only was he rescued from his predicament by the seeming misfortunes that befell him, but perhaps his suffering in some way accomplished a definite function in his goal in this world. It raised him up to a level he could not have attained without it.
This is the meaning of "This too is for the good." Not only will good come from this, but "this too" is in itself good.
Wishing everyone a Freilachen Adar and a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network