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In this week's parashah, we read the terrifying tochachah, the words of rebuke, with which Hashem warns of the frightening consequences of not following in the ways of the Torah and obeying her commandments. As we have discussed several times before, every good parent knows that with love alone, offering only rewards for compliance, one cannot assure that his child will behave properly. There must also be the balance of fear, the concern for punishment (within the proper limits, of course), which will help the boy or girl choose properly. The Torah says: "If you behave casually with Me and refuse to heed Me, then I shall lay a further blow upon you -- seven ways, like your sins" (Vayikra 26:21).

In Hebrew, the word "keri," which is translated here as "casually" is also the source of the word "mikreh," which means "by chance." The concept of "mikreh" is the antithesis of one of the main foundations of Judaism, "Hashgocho Peratis," Divine Providence. Consequently, commentators explain that the tochachah is brought about when Jews believe that that which befalls them is merely "by chance" and not as a direct result of Divine Intervention.

A Jew must believe that everything he experiences, whether good or bad, is the result of something he did right or wrong. Nothing is by chance; it is either a reward or a punishment from Hashem. If one finds himself suffering, he should examine his ways and find the cause which brought this pain upon him. When he makes amends, he can be sure that the situation will improve.

And one should strengthen this basic belief by paying attention and noticing Hashgocho Peratis whenever it is manifested. Rather than comment, "what a coincidence," a Torah true Jew will say, "what Hashgocho." As he recognizes more and more that Hashem is directly involved in running this world's state of affairs, he will come to realize that Hashem is directly involved in his own life too. Then he will respond properly to those incidents which affect him and he will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

The following story is recorded in the new masterpiece, "The Legacy of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler," written by Rabbi Yitzchok Dershowitz and published by Feldheim.

When Rav Shneur Kotler z"l was a boy, in the summer of 1937, he suffered an attack of severe abdominal pain. Since the local doctor in Kletsk was away at the time, a military doctor was summoned instead. He diagnosed the condition as acute appendicitis, requiring immediate surgery.

Reb Aharon ztvk"l and the Rebbetzin took their son on a train to Vilna, a five hour journey, where a qualified surgeon would perform the operation. The Rosh Yeshiva had reserved a sleeper compartment so that Reb Shneur would be able to lie down during the trip while holding an ice pack to the distressed area. However, when they tried to enter their compartment, they simply could not open the door.

Others tried to open the door too, but it simply would not budge. They noticed that the next compartment had two beds and one was unoccupied. Having no alternative, they laid Reb Shneur down on the empty bed and quietly left the room. Reb Aharon then tried the door of his reserved compartment once again and this time he had not the slightest trouble opening it! However, he left his son to rest where he had already been placed.

The occupant of the other bed was a famous Jewish-Polish attorney named Tchernikov. Upon awakening, he protested the presence of his uninvited guest. However, upon learning of the boy's situation he asked why they were taking him to Vilna, which was so far away, and not to Baranovitch which was only half an hour away. When they explained to him that they had not been successful in getting an appointment with the surgeon of Baranovitch, he said that at the next ten minute train stop he would phone and try to arrange for surgery there. Sure enough, as soon as the train stopped he rushed out and returned shortly with the good news that the doctor was waiting for them.

Reb Shneur was rushed to the doctor who operated on him and in a short while he was fully recovered, baruch Hashem.

Subsequently, Reb Aharon sent Tchernikov a letter in which he wrote: "There really is no way that I can adequately thank you for saving my son's life. There is, however, one thing I can do for you which can be immensely beneficial and that is to point out and thus help you be more aware of the clear Hashgochas Hashem that you yourself were part of - that you saw with your own eyes!"

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel