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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Toldos

Things Could Be Better

And God shall give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land and abundant grain and wine. (Bereishis 27:28)

An excerpt from my sefer Trust Me!

This is adapted from Chofetz Chaim Al Ha-Torah as cited in Yalkut Lekach Tov, vol. 1, p. 148.

Ya'akov received the blessings that he had rightfully purchased, urged on by his mother Rivkah, who knew prophetically that the blessings were to be his: "And God shall give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land" (Bereishis 27:28). Eisav then furiously rushed in and pleaded: "Haven't you left any blessings for me?!" (27:36). Yitzchak first told him that there were none left - but then said: "On the fat of the land you shall dwell, and from the dew of the heavens above" (27:39).

The Chofetz Chaim notes that these two blessings seem to be almost identical. Upon close examination, however, two differences become apparent. First, the order is reversed. In Ya'akov's blessing, the heavens are mentioned before the earth. This signified that Ya'akov's life and actions emphasized the eternal as opposed to the fleeting. However, Eisav, as we saw earlier, was willing to forfeit the heavens for a hefty chunk of the earth. Thus, in his case, the fat of the land was mentioned first.

The second difference is pointed out by Rashi. In Ya'akov's blessing it says that God [Elokim] will give him his portion. Elokim refers to the Almighty's attribute of strict justice. Everything that a descendant of Ya'akov receives or does not receive is perfectly measured by Hashem. If you deserve it, He will give it to you. If not, He won't. On the other hand, there is no source mentioned for Eisav's blessing. Whatever you are, you will get rich. It doesn't matter whether you are wicked or righteous.

The Chofetz Chaim learns from this that a person should never complain about the portion that Hashem has allotted (or "alittled") him. We must trust that if wealth would be beneficial to us, Hashem would surely give it to us. If He hasn't, it is because our present state is the best possible situation for us. Fortunate is the person who isn't subjected to destructive wealth!

The Chofetz Chaim once asked someone how he was doing. The answer was a response that is probably familiar to many people: "Things could be better - I could use a bit more money." The Chofetz Chaim replied, "How do you know that a bit more wouldn't make things worse? Hashem is totally compassionate, He knows much more than we do, and He certainly has the ability to give more. If He isn't giving, it means that things couldn't be better!"

What Looks Good and What Looks Bad

R. Nissim Gaon was one of the great sages who lived right after the time when the Talmud was written (the time of the Geonim). In his Sefer Ha-Ma'asiyos, he relates the following story (cited in Yalkut Sippurim, and in Yalkut Lekach Tov, vol. 1, p. 148).

R. Yehoshua ben Levi beseeched the Almighty to reveal to him the mystery behind His ways: why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. One day, the Prophet Eliyahu appeared to him. R. Yehoshua realized that this was a Heaven-sent opportunity, and he asked Eliyahu if he could accompany him and observe how he carried out his Heavenly assignments. Perhaps this would help him understand some of the mystery behind Hashem's management of the world.

Eliyahu agreed, but on one condition: "If you travel with me, you will see many things that will anger you, and you won't be able to accept them. You have to promise before we go that you won't bother me with any questions. As soon as you ask why I am doing anything, we will part ways." R. Yehoshua ben Levi agreed, and the two started out on their journey.

Toward evening, they arrived at an old wooden shack. A cow was grazing peacefully nearby. As they approached the shack, an old man and his aged wife came out to greet them. They insisted that the two travelers spend the night with them. The hosts tried their best to make their guests comfortable, but they were so poor that they couldn't offer very much. The next morning the two guests woke up and prepared for their departure. Eliyahu stood up and prayed. R. Yehoshua was aghast when he overheard Eliyahu daven for the couple's cow - the only source of their meager livelihood - to die! They hadn't gone very far when they heard the old woman cry out, "Oy! Our only cow! Oy! How will we live?" R. Yehoshua could hardly contain himself, but he remembered his promise and kept silent.

Toward evening, the two travelers came upon a beautiful mansion. They knocked on the door, but no one answered. Eliyahu said, "Perhaps they didn't hear us. Let's go in anyway." They went in and saw a man (the master of the house) and a woman (his wife) sitting in a luxuriously furnished dining room. The table was lavishly covered with all sorts of fancy dishes, the finest china, and shining silver tableware. All around the house were servants attending to every need of this couple. When the master of the house saw his two uninvited guests, he didn't waste his time greeting them or inviting them to have something to eat. He angrily jumped up and said to one of his servants, "Who let these vagabonds in here?! You must make sure the front door is always locked so that we won't be bothered by creatures like these."

This man was known as a mean-spirited miser. On that day, however, he was especially irritable. It seemed that one of the walls of his mansion was beginning to crumble and cave in. He had called in some builders to fix it, but they had never arrived. In addition to worrying that the wall might collapse before it was fixed, he was livid at the workers for being so lax.

When the two guests asked permission to spend the night in his house, he grudgingly allowed them to sleep on the stone benches in the backyard. In keeping with his disposition, he didn't offer them anything to eat or drink. The next day, R. Yehoshua urged Eliyahu to get away from that house quickly. Eliyahu agreed, but he reminded his companion that before setting out, they had to daven. Again R. Yehoshua heard what seemed to be a totally improper prayer emanating from Eliyahu's lips: Eliyahu asked Hashem to perform a miracle and make the broken wall of the mansion stand upright again. Instantly, the wall became straight and was like new! Again, R. Yehoshua restrained himself.

They once more walked the whole day. That evening, as dusk came, they arrived in a big city. "Let's go to the shul," said Eliyahu. "Perhaps one of the people there will invite us to stay with him." The two men found the shul and entered. It was obvious from the opulent edifice and luxurious setting that the people of this city were very wealthy. Each person sat in his own seat, according to his station, and every member of the congregation was quite strict that no stranger should be allowed to sit in his place. The two guests were pushed into a corner of the shul, and there they waited until after the evening service. Finally, one of the members of the shul noticed them, and said to his friend, "Look at that, will you. There are paupers here again. Who's going to take care of them this time?" His friend replied, "There's no need to invite them home. It's enough to bring a bit of bread, salt, and water to the shul." The other people praying there paid absolutely no attention to the poor guests. No one invited them home, and even these two congregants didn't bother to bring them anything. They contented themselves with paying the shamash a few pennies to provide them with a little bread.

Morning came. After sleeping in the shul and davening Shacharis, the two travelers departed from the city. As they were leaving, Eliyahu gave the people a blessing: "May it be His will that you all be leaders and important people." This incensed R. Yehoshua, and he was about to confront Eliyahu for an explanation - but once again he remembered his agreement and refrained from speaking.

At the end of the day, as the sun was setting, they arrived at a different city. Here, the people immediately spotted them, and escorted them to a large and comfortable community guest house. There, the two travelers were wined and dined with the finest of delicacies, and their hosts stayed with them to enjoy the company of the guests who had chanced to pass their way. In the morning, as the two men were departing, Eliyahu gave them the following blessing: "May it be His will that you are granted only one leader."

R. Yehoshua ben Levi could no longer contain himself. When they had left the city, he stopped and turned to Eliyahu. "I cannot watch these strange actions of yours any longer. For the good people you pray for bad things, and for the bad you pray for good things. What is going on?!"

Eliyahu answered, "Since you have broken our agreement, we will have to part ways now. But before leaving, I will explain what I did. There was a decree concerning the wife of the poor old man who had invited us in, and she was to die the next day. Therefore I prayed to Hashem that she remain alive and that their cow die in her place. True, they might suffer terribly because of the death of their only cow, but think for a minute: wouldn't the old man gladly give everything he owned in order to save his wife? Also, you may rest assured that his wonderful and diligent wife will soon bring him much wealth. They will be blessed with affluence, and won't even miss the cow.

"The wealthy owner of the mansion didn't know that underneath his broken wall was a hidden treasure of gold. If he had rebuilt the wall himself, he would have discovered the treasure. However, now that the wall has miraculously rebuilt itself, he will never find it. But soon the wall will crumble again, never to be rebuilt, because that man will be so busy with all his worries that he won't be able to think about fixing his house.

"As for the arrogant people for whom I prayed that they all become leaders - this is a guarantee that they will constantly quarrel and bicker, because no one will want to give in to his friend and each one will want to be the head of the city. Therefore, there will never be any peace among them, and they will never be blessed in anything they do. As for the people of the city who received us with such cordial hospitality, to them I gave a blessing that they should have only one leader: they will all agree to choose the best man among them for that job, and thus they will live peacefully under him.

"And now remember this well. The ways of Hashem are hidden. Not everything that seems good is really good, and not everything that looks bad is truly bad. "

Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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