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"And G-d appeared to Ya'akov again when he came from Paddan-Aram, and He blessed him" (Bereishis 35:9). Rashi explains, "He gave him the blessing of consolation addressed to mourners," since he had just heard about the passing away of his mother Rivka.
Visiting mourners and consoling them is a great mitzvah and an act of loving-kindness. But, like all mitzvahs, it has its rules and regulations. One of them, brought in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 376:2) is particularly interesting: "One should not say to the mourner, 'What can you do? It cannot be changed.' For this is like blasphemy, since it indicates that if it were possible to change he would. Rather, he should accept upon himself the judgment of Hashem, may He be blessed, with love."
One might think that saying, "What can you do? It cannot be changed," is a declaration of faith, acknowledging that Hashem is the sole Boss and that no one can alter His Will. But the Sages taught us that this is wrong and, as a matter of fact, has the opposite connotation. For what he is implying is that the decree of Hashem, that his loved one should die, was certainly an injustice and if we were in charge, we would rule differently. But what can we do? Hashem is "running the show" and we have to accept his edicts.
This is not the faith we are supposed to have. On the contrary, we are supposed to totally trust Hashem and believe with all our heart and soul that were we to have all of the information He has, and were we totally objective, we would have ruled exactly in the same way! That is why the mourner is required to recite, "The Rock, perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a G-d of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He" (Devarim 32:4).
Our faith in Hashem requires us to firmly believe that everything He does is for our benefit and that if we don't see that it is, then we are simply lacking information. The Chofetz Chaim ztvk"l compares this to a passerby who spends one Shabbos in a town, and criticizes the gabbai (the manager of the synagogue) for his distribution of the aliyos to the Torah, arguing that he would have allotted them differently. Everyone would look at him as a real weirdo and reprimand him, "How can you even profess to know what should be done? You weren't here last week; you won't be here next week. Some of the people you want to honor were honored already; others will be, at the proper time. Without all of the appropriate information, how can you pass judgment?"
Hashem tells us the same thing, concludes the Chofetz Chaim. We are all just passersby in this world, none of us privy to the knowledge of the past and the future. Therefore we cannot criticize the way He runs the world nor offer alternative suggestions on how to do it better.
The story is related in the Talmud of a sage who begged to accompany Eliyahu Hanavi on his visits to people. Eliyahu at first refused, explaining that he would not understand his ways. Finally, he agreed to take him along on condition that he not ask any questions. Although the Rabbi found many things to be incomprehensible, he held his peace so that he could continue to escort the Prophet.
Eventually, they visited a poor widow, who lived with her only daughter. The unfortunate woman owned a cow, which was her source of subsistence. Although they had very little themselves, the woman and her daughter were extremely hospitable, and served the two unexpected guests as best as they could, according to their means. Before they left, Eliyahu blessed the woman and her daughter. As they walked away, though, the Rabbi heard the widow let out a shriek and begin to cry terribly. Upon further investigation, he discovered that her only cow had died. This was too much for the sage, and he asked his venerable host how could he possibly have repaid the kind woman with evil for her benevolence?
Eliyahu replied that because the Rabbi had broken the rules, he would answer his question, but he could not continue to accompany him. "This woman's daughter was supposed to die today," explained the Man of G-d. "I went to visit her, to give her the opportunity to perform an act of kindness and receive my blessing. As a result, Hashem agreed to take her cow from her instead of her daughter. If she knew this, rather than cry, she would be singing Hashem's praises. But she, like you, questions Hashem's motives, and therefore she is sad instead of glad."
I know someone who has a lot of problems. He visited a Kabbalist, and, without telling him a thing, the Rabbi said to him, "You have a lot of hardships and you are wondering why you deserve them. Well, I can tell you that you do deserve them, because of things you did in this world when you were here in a previous incarnation. Hashem loves you and is giving you all of these troubles solely for your benefit; to help you gain purification of your soul and attain full reward in Gan Eden. If you knew all of the details like I do, then, rather than complain and cry, you would be dancing in the streets!"
This is the proper attitude we, as faithful Jews, are supposed to have whenever we suffer any kind of loss or inconvenience. With this absolute faith and trust in Hashem's constant, ceaseless benevolence, we will truly be happy always, in this world and in the World-to-Come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network