Part 31: Chapter 6, Verses 1- 7
1. And Iyov answered and said,
2. Oh that my vexation were thoroughly
weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances!
3. For now it would be
heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are stammering.
4. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison of which my
spirit drinks up: the terrors of G-d array themselves against me.
the wild ass bray when he has grass? Or does the ox low over his fodder?
Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in
the white of an egg?
7. My soul refuses to touch them; they are to me as
In this chapter Iyov continues his argument of determinism. He insists that
man is an oblect of fate; freewill is not a factor in determining the
future. Iyov's main support for this viewpoint is the fact that the
righteous suffer no less than the wicked. His personal tragedy proves his
case beyond a shadow of a doubt. Iyov views his suffering as a curse that
will remain with him until death. In his opinion there can be no benefit or
purpose in suffering.
Elifaz contends that Iyov's suffering is not random misfortune or the
result of a preordained fate of misery. It is G-d's response to sin. Elifaz
concedes that Iyov is an extremely pious individual but that does not
preclude the possibility of minor errors in human conduct especially when
that requires the fulfillment of G-d's will. The benefit of his suffering
is to protect him from major misfortune in this world and replace the
eternal suffering of the world to come. Iyov now begins his refutation of
Elifaz pointed out that Iyov is not as righteous as he claims to be as was
clearly demonstrated by Iyov losing control of himself after receiving his
first difficulty in life. If Iyov was as pious as he claimed he should have
remained firm in his love of G-d and faith that He Judges man with absolute
Iyov's response is blunt. Place on one side of a balance his pain and
suffering and on the other side his anger and inappropriate response. If
the results of this weigh-in would hang the scales in perfect balance then
Elifaz's accusation might have some validity. But the reality is that the
results would clearly demonstrate that the pain and anguish of Iyov would
heavily tilt the scales in his favor. In light of such an overwhelming
demonstration Iyov's somewhat inappropriate response could be pardoned.
As far as Elifaz's claim that suffering has its benefits; Iyov sees no
advantage in horrific suffering since it can lead only to death.
Furthermore, Iyov's sees no reprieve from his miserable suffering. What
does he have to look forward to if not more of the same? Although Iyov has
no 'inside' knowledge that his suffering will continue unabated forever he
takes a fatalistic approach. This is a typical delusion of the depressed.
They can see no 'out' from their present misery. In light of Iyov's
remarkable recovery at the end of the story we can see how erroneous such
doomsday feelings can be.
Iyov continues to predict his final demise. Animals do not have the most
delectable choice of foods at their disposal, nevertheless, they do not
complain about it. They eat their food out of necessity regardless of the
lack of flavor. Iyov's suffering is so intense that not only has he lost
his appetite, but is totally disgusted by the sight of food.
The instinct to preserve life exists in all living creatures. One of the
ways that this instinct manifests itself is the drive to eat. Regardless of
the quality of the food, rather that perish from malnutrition or hunger all
living creatures will eat. Iyov is not functioning on the level of even an
animal. How can a living organism hope to heal and continue to live without
the ability to eat? Iyov's situation is indeed grim.
Rashi takes a different approach to these verses. An animal does not become
agitated unless it is lacking food. But any food is sufficient for an
animal whether it has good taste or not. A human being, on the other hand,
is not satisfied with tasteless food. If it lacks taste it needs to be
enhanced by salt and spices. Iyov states that he is no worse than an
animal. As long as they have food they are content. So too, Iyov would not
be screaming if he could acquire a palatable understanding of his bleak
situation. The answers that Elifaz is giving him are like food without
salt, Iyov cannot digest them.
This is an important insight. Our sages ob"m teach us that just as people's
faces are different their mental and emotional profiles differ. One man's
poison is another man's cup of tea. When attempting to comfort someone who
is in misery it is essential to have some understanding of the victim's
unique temperament and perspective. No matter how intelligent or clever
your thoughts and words may be you cannot expect them to have any positive
effect unless the recipient can relate to them and find them acceptable.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of
Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.