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Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying. “When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzara’as affliction upon a house in the land of your possession…Then the Kohen shall come and look, and behold! -- the affliction had spread in the house - It is a malignant tzara’as in the house, it is contaminated. He shall demolish the house -- its stones, its timber, and all the mortar of the house; they shall take it to the outside of the city, to a contaminated place” (Vayikra 14:33-34, 44-45).
Rashi brings the enlightening words of the Sages: “Because the Amorites concealed treasures of gold in the walls of their houses, during the whole forty years the Israelites were in the wilderness, in order that they might not possess them when they conquered the Land of Canaan, and in consequence of the plague they would pull down the house and discover them.”
The Amorites anticipated losing the impending war with the Israelis, and wanted to at least prevent the victors from enjoying their spoils, so they hid their treasures in the walls of their houses, hoping that the new inhabitants would never find them, for who would destroy his own home? Therefore, Hashem afflicted the houses with tzara’as so that they would have to tear them down and discover the hidden wealth.
Imagine how upset a homeowner would be upon being informed by the Kohen that his house was condemned to be demolished. He would probably become very depressed, cursing his luck, and maybe even speak, or at least think, some strong words towards Hashem Who is so unfair to bring this catastrophe upon him and his family.
But imagine how thrilled he would be when the workers began removing more and more gold and gold items, making him rich beyond his wildest dreams. He would surely host a lavish kiddush and sing praises to Hashem Who is so kind and benevolent for having brought this bliss to him and his family.
We find a similar situation in the Gemara (Nidah 31a) where Rav Yosef offers the following interpretation for the passage, “Hashem, I will praise You for You were angry with me; Your anger was turned away, and You comforted me” (Yesha’ayahu 12:1): Two fellows were on the way to do business, probably each with his own dreams of amassing fortunes. Suddenly, one of them got a thorn in his foot and could not continue, but had to return home. He began to curse and swear. Some time later, he heard that his friend’s ship sunk at sea. Then, he began to recite thanks and praises.
Do you ever wonder if Hashem gets frustrated with us? He is so good to us but we lack trust in Him and so often suspect that He is hurting us when, in reality, He is actually helping us immensely. We all hope that He always understands us and doesn’t really mind too much. But, actually, there is a Chazal (Yalkut Shim’oni, Nach, on Hoshea 7; remez 524) which expresses a certain degree of frustration, specifically in this type of situation.
The Navi (prophet) quotes Hashem as complaining, “I wanted to redeem them, but they have spoken lies against Me” (Hoshea 7:13). The Sages elaborate: “I said, ‘I will redeem them by means of their money in this world, so that they may inherit the world-to-come’; but they have spoken lies against Me. I said, ‘I will torment them with suffering in this world, to strengthen their hands in the world-to-come’; but they thought badly of Me.”
When a person sins, he is destined to terrible suffering in the world-to-come (The Rambam writes that he doesn’t know what Gehinom [Hell] actually is; but he knows that it is extremely unpleasant!). One who repents while he is alive (penitence is only possible in this world), can be exonerated of punishment. Even if a person did not repent, if he also performed mitzvahs, and finds favor in Hashem’s eyes, he may be privileged to receive his punishment in this world rather than the next. The reason this is considered a privilege is that a small amount of suffering in this world is equal to a great amount of affliction in the world-to-come.
This is what Hashem complains about. He tries very hard to do what is best for His children, by causing them a monetary loss or some physical pain, in order that it be good for them in the eternal life; but because they lack trust in Him they whine and grumble and protest His behavior.
Like the fellow whose house was demolished but consequently discovered the hidden treasure, sometimes we see the good which comes out of the bad. Many people have missed their plane, though they tried so hard to catch it, and later heard that it crashed. Many missed the bus which was blown up by terrorists. Many were distraught when they lost their jobs; but they celebrated when they heard that they escaped the tragedy which struck the office where they used to sit.
Often, we don’t see the immediate benefit of a disappointing situation. It is then that we are expected to have Faith and Trust in Hashem; to know that He loves us much more than we love ourselves, and that everything that He does is only for our good. At the very least, our suffering atones for our sins; and we all know that we have plenty of them.
Besides everything else, one who has this proper attitude is able to cope with difficult situations and not break down because of them. Many non-religious Israelis have told me, “We, the non-religious, are jealous of you religious people. When we are struck by tragedy, we become depressed and cannot continue with our lives. But you tell yourselves, ‘Whatever Hashem does is for the best’; ‘kapparat avonot’ (forgiveness of sins); and other such things, and you go on normally. It’s really amazing.”
Avi Shulman, of Monsey, NY, who teaches motivation and proper attitudes in Judaism, once told me the following analogy.
A fellow had a 9:00 AM meeting in his office, with a super-punctual “Yekky,” to sign a sure million dollar deal. But he knew that if he comes late, this “Yekky” would not want to do business with him. The night before, he set five alarm clocks and alerted everyone in his house that it was crucial that they see to it that he get up on time the next morning.
Somehow, someway, nothing helped, and when he awoke the next morning he was startled to see that he had overslept. He skipped his shower and his breakfast, flew out the door and drove his car, as fast as he possibly could, to the highway to his office. As he approached the highway, he was shocked to observe the biggest traffic jam he had ever seen in his life. Inching along on the road, he kept looking at the clock, hoping that somehow, perhaps by means of a miracle, he would still manage to get there on time. In the meanwhile, he said some prayers and promised more and more to tzedakah if he makes the deal.
Suddenly, the worst happened: a flat tire! Cursing his luck, he began to wonder why Hashem doesn’t seem to want him to sign this agreement. He had no choice but to pull over to the side and change the tire. By the time he was finished, he knew that there was no way he could get to the meeting on time, but he hoped that if he were no more than 10 minutes late, perhaps his potential partner would overlook it.
Pitom (suddenly), he almost fainted as he realized that in his mad rush to leave the house as fast as he could, he left behind his attach? case with all of the contracts they were to sign together. Without them, his trip to the office was totally in vain.
There was nothing he could do. He turned around, returned home, got the papers and, with a heavy heart, began the trip once again. But he knew that he would be very late, and he kept asking Hashem why He didn’t want him to make the deal which would have enabled him to give so much tzedakah and learn Torah and take talmidei chachamim for his sons-in-law etc.
Finally, he arrived at his office, three quarters of an hour late, and asked his secretary if his business associate was there on time. She told him that he was there exactly on time, waited one quarter of an hour, and, as he left, he told her to tell her boss to forget his number. He would never have any business dealings with someone who came so late for such an important appointment.
Now, it is quite obvious that it was min haShamayim (fated from Heaven) that this fellow lose this deal, for whatever reason Hashem had. Until this point, there was nothing he could do to change the situation and the outcome. However, what happens from here on is totally dependent upon his bechirah (free choice) which will depend on his attitude.
Because, unbeknown to him, the Ribbono Shel Olam intends to send him four more, unexpected, million dollar deals that day, which He will allow him to conclude. However, whether or not he makes them, depends solely upon him.
If he tells his secretary that he is totally depressed from what happened, and he will receive no calls or visitors today, and he slams the door and goes into his office to sulk and moan all day long, then he will miss out on these four deals too, and go home in a miserable mood, but will have no one to blame for them but himself (unlike the first deal which was obviously not bashert)!
But if his attitude is that hakol min haShamayim letovah (everything Hashem does is for the best) and if the Ribbono Shel Olam didn’t allow him the first deal then He must have had some good reason why it is not good for him (and we could easily think of many possible reasons why), and im yirtzeh Hashem if it is good for him to be rich then the Almighty will send him some other shaliach (messenger); and he goes into his office with emunah (Faith) and bitachon (Trust) and perhaps takes out a sefer Tehillim (Book of Psalms) and recites some in order to strengthen his kesher (relationship) with the Almighty, then he will sign four major deals that day and go home feeling ecstatic.
So let us learn to appreciate everything Hashem sends our way, whether or not it’s what we wanted, and whether or not we understand why it’s good for us. If we trust in Hashem, we will always be happy, in this world and the world-to-come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network