Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Easy to Say

It's easy to talk about emunah when things go smoothly. When everything about you is positve and happy. The real test, the real test of our strength and belief is when things get tough. When we do not understand.

I have been thinking about this ever since my last post about Hurricane Sandy. I wrote: Trees got thrown down just a few inches away from houses and cars. I saw with my own eyes the precision of the fall...how every inch is calculated. Another inch-and that car would have been smashed. Another inch-and that house would have had major damage. This showed me how every little detail is calculated, every inch, every moment of our lives. The same One who made the tree fall directly in front of that house and an inch away from that car, is watching over me every moment. The details of my life are calculated; Hashem works with precision and care.

Yes, all of that is true. But what about the trees that fell down and did cause destruction? As I was driving on the day I wrote that post, I passed a minivan that was completely shattered-from a huge tree that fell right on top of it. It wasn't a new model. I thought about the family whose car that must belong to. I thought about their pain, how hard it might be for them to replace their car. Maybe they were struggling and this was the last thing they needed...how would they get their children to school? How would they get to work? Forget about waiting on line for gas. They didn't even have a car!

What about all those who lost homes due to flooding and who will have to pay to redo all or parts of their homes? The amount of damage, the pictures I've seen...they moved me to tears. It didn't hit me until I saw Hamodia's Supplement, Waves of Wrath, Waves of Chessed. Pictures of seforim floating around in feet and feet of water, the beautiful aron kodesh knocked over...and the men and boys who continued learning and giving shiurim in the dark, by candlelight or flashlight. All of this made me cry.

We do not understand.

I do not understand.

I do not claim to have reasons. I do not claim to know why this happened. Who am I to pinpoint and say that it happened because of one specific aveirah I am guilty of, or one specific mitzvah I am not performing properly?

R' Fishel Schachter gave a very powerful speech about this. He spoke about how when something of such catastrophic proportions occurs, people try to give reasons and tell other people what it is that they need to change and do better.

He repeated a story that took place one summer. There was an accident that affected a certain family in Camp Ohr Shraga. After it happened, one rav got up and said that the accident happened because of bittul torah and proceeded to give a fiery speech about the importance of Torah learning and the danger of wasting time when one was meant to be learning.

After he concluded his speech, R' Yakov Kaminetzky stood up and said to the rav (in yiddish): Are you a navi? Are you a ba'al ruach hakodesh? Shamefully, the rav answered no to both of those questions.

R' Yakov continued, "So then how could you say that this happened because of bittul torah?? If it's true that this is why the tragedy occurred, then yes, everyone should work on strengthening themselves in the way they learn and the amount of time they spend learning. But if it is not true, since we do not know the cheshbonos of Hashem, you have to go back to the family who was affected by this tragedy and ask them for mechillah, for forgiveness...for speaking ona'as devorim, for causing pain with the words you said! Because they will be thinking, If only people would have learned better, if only people would not have wasted an extra minute...this would never have happened. And THAT is a very dangerous way of thinking and causes tremendous hurt and guilt to the family involved."

And then R' Yakov gave his own passionate speech about bittul torah. R' Yakov, who knew what it meant not to waste a minute of learning, who learned while wearing his boots and would fall asleep before he had the energy to take them off, he gave a speech about the importance of utilizing every moment to learn.

That is a gadol.

We do not know why things happen. None of us are great enough or big enough to give reasons. We can take personal messages from the events that happened-and we should. We should look inside our hearts and see what we need to change, on a personal level. But we cannot go around making broad statements saying exactly why this happened. We simply do not know.

It's when things are tough and we do not understand...that is when we need to work on strengthening our emunah. On knowing that no matter what happens, there is a reason for it. And even though we do not know why, there is a reason, there is a Creator. He is my G-d. I trust Him completely, especially when I do not understand. Especially when I am confused. Especially when life doesn't go the way I want it.

Hashem knows. Hashem runs my life.

It's easy to say. It's easy to talk about when things go smoothly. Now it's time to put it into practice. To internalize this trust, to work on it, to strengthen it, to make my emunah rock-solid, super strong.

It's easy to say.


  1. I found it interesting that - for me - when things were so hard and I was in so much pain, that is when I was able to form a connection to Hashem, which is something I struggled with before, and that is when I felt that my emunah was strongest.

  2. Anon-Wow. Emunah is a constant struggle. And now, I'm finding strength I never had, building upon the emunah I knew I had before, strengthening it, molding it and making it a part of who I am. I know Hashem runs my life...every part of it. I'm just starting to feel it in my bones. Isn't that what I've always hoped for? I just wish all I'm gaining didn't have to come from so much pain.

  3. This was davka something I needed to hear tonight. Such hashgacha! I really appreciated the story you gave over from R'Schachter. It typically bothers me when I hear "reasons" given for tzores or disasters. I heard that Rav Matisyahu Solomon said once that everyone knows the area in which they need to improve, and after a disaster, that is what they need to work on.

    Thank you. It's been too long since I stopped by here!

  4. Rivki-I'm happy to hear you found just what you needed to hear at the moment.

    It's good to see you here! You can come back anytime :-)


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