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Acharei Mos

I once heard from my Rebby, shlita, that if one wants to know his status in Heaven, he should examine how things go when he tries to sin. If he finds that "All operations go," and the path is smooth before him, then that is a bad sign that Hashem is so disillusioned with him that He lets him do what he wants. In contrast, if he sees that there are obstacles strewn in his path and he finds it difficult to achieve his sinful goal, then that is a very good sign that Hashem still has faith in him and is trying to help him from falling into the snare of the Satan. Of course, he always maintains his bechirah (free will) to cooperate with or oppose the siyata diShemaya (Heavenly assistance) being bestowed upon him. But what is clear is that Hashem wants to help him.

Hashem's evaluation of a person is extremely complex and is based upon countless factors, most of which we are totally unaware of, including the person's background and the circumstances which led him to his present situation. Therefore, we may often be surprised to see whom Hashem helps and whom he does not. But our faith in Him as the True Judge requires us to always concede to His decision.

In this week's parashah, the Torah lists the many relationships which are forbidden to us. One of them is a sister-in-law as it says (Vayikra 18:16), "The nakedness of your brother's wife you shall not uncover; it is your brother's shame." The following story is brought in the superb book, Lulei Sorasechah.

Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky ztvk"l (1863-1940) was the da'ayan (judge) in Vilna, Lithuania. He was also the undisputed Chief Rabbi of the Diaspora. All of the European rabbis were subservient to him and all communal issues were decided by him and his court. The Chofetz Chaim once said about him that he, in essence, is Klal Yisroel! The many needs of the Jewish People, especially in the difficult days right before the Holocaust, kept Reb Chaim Ozer busy around the clock. Fortunately, he was blessed with a phenomenal brain and memory and he was able to do several things at the same time.

The yoke of the congregation took its toll on his health, however, and one year he was instructed by his doctors that he had no choice but to spend the High Holy Days at a health resort. His disappointment was indescribable and he thought to himself, why did Hashem do this to me, isolating me from my community Vilna, the main Jewish vibrant metropolis, and exiling me to this remote place during the most important days of the year?

On "Shabbos Teshuvah" (the Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), Reb Chaim Ozer saw a newcomer in the shul. The Rabbi greeted him warmly and asked him where he was from. The fellow answered that he was from America and was on his way to Petersburg. His brother had died recently and left over a widow and young children and he decided that, rather than marry a stranger, he would wed her and help her raise his nephews and nieces. He had written her a letter with this proposal and she had accepted. Now he was on the way there.

Rabbi Grodzinsky was shocked. A sister-in-law who has children is forbidden by the Torah! He opened a Chumash and showed the man the prohibition, "The nakedness of your brother's wife you shall not uncover; it is your brother's shame."

But the American was stubborn. "No one will convince me to change my mind," he responded resolutely. But after a moment he added, "Perhaps, if the Rabbi of Vilna would rule against it, I would listen to him."

Reb Chaim Ozer's face beamed. "My dear friend, I am the Rabbi of Vilna!"

The lesson of Hashgachah Peratis (Divine Providence) in this story is obvious. However, Harav Shach zt"l commented that we must learn from it that it was worth it to Hashem to cause so much anguish to the greatest Rabbi of the generation, making him so sick so that he needed to spend time at a health resort and to separating him from his loved ones on the High Holy Days, just to save a simple Jew from sin.

We should appreciate how much Hashem cares for us and cooperate with Him. Then we will be truly happy, in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel