The sadness still lingers in our hearts. Just days ago, we fasted
and grieved over the destruction of Jerusalem. We read the lurid
accounts in the Book of Lamentations, and we shed a tear over our
ancestors who suffered so terribly in ancient times. And then our
thoughts turned to our own situation, still mired in exile and divine
disfavor, still surrounded on all sides by foes and detractors who seek
But the time for grieving has passed, and now it is time to be
consoled. The seven weeks between Tishah b’Av and Rosh Hashanah
are known as the Weeks of Consolation. For the Haftorah during this
period, we read passages of solace and hope from the Book of Isaiah,
whose glowing prophecies paint a picture of the pure joy, thanksgiving
and music we will experience when this exile comes to an end.
These inspirational messages are meant to lift our spirits, but this is
easier said than done. How can we nurture hope in our hearts when we
have to endure so much suffering? How can we relate to a serene and
blissful future when we see our people attacked, persecuted and vilified
all over the world? How can we fortify our faith n the Almighty when He
presents us with so many challenges?
The answer to these troubling questions lies in this week’s Torah
portion. Moses tells the Jewish people that the Almighty chastises them
“just as father chastises his son.” This is the key to dealing effectively
with life’s challenges. As long as we remember that the Almighty loves
us like a father loves his children, we can be confident that everything
that takes place is for the greater good. A father would never allow
gratuitous harm befall his son.
A man from a big city took his family for a long visit with a brother
that lived on a farm. Early one morning, the man’s young son went out
to the fields and saw his uncle plowing.
“I don’t understand, uncle,” he said. “Why are you ripping apart this
beautiful field? It was so pretty, and now it’s full of long ditches.”
The farmer smiled indulgently at his little nephew and continued to
plow. “Just wait a little while,” he said, “and you will understand.”
The farmer stripped the kernels from a sheaf of golden wheat stalks
until he had a little mound. Then he took a handful of the kernels and
began to walk alongside the furrows, dropping them in as he went
“Why are you ruining those beautiful stalks?” the boy protested.
“Why are you tossing those kernels into the ground?”
Time passed, and fresh stalks grew from the ground. “Watch
closely,” said the farmer. He cut down the stalks and ground them into
flour. Then he made the flour into dough, which he formed into loaves.
He put the loaves into the oven, and soon, the kitchen was filled with
the savory smell of fresh bread baking.
“Now do you understand why I tore up the field?” the farmer said to
his nephew. “It is called plowing; there can be no bread without it.”
In our own lives, we often see that seemingly catastrophic
downturns and reversals can actually lead to great results. We may lose
a well-paying job and be devastated by our misfortune; we may even
reproach Hashem. But a short time later, we find another job far better
and more lucrative than the first. So what do we think? Do we recognize
Hashem’s guiding hand, or do we chalk it up to sheer good luck? It all
depends on our perspective. If we live with the knowledge that Hashem
is our loving Father, we can see His kindness all around us. If we widen
the lens of our perception and observe the broader landscape of life, we
will see Hashem’s loving fatherly embrace all around us. And we will
discover within ourselves the strength to survive and even grow
spiritually during the long dark night of our exile.