The Chofetz Chaim writes that at times we perceive injustice in the way
that the world is being run. We see 'bad things happening to good people',
and question the ways of Hashem. Why are these righteous people being
denied that which so many other people have? His actions seem far from
being "perfect, righteous and straight"!
The matter, he writes, can be compared to a wealthy man whose beloved son
became deathly ill. Quickly realizing that the local doctors were unable to
help the child, the father, sparing no expense, involved the worlds best
doctors to save his son's life. One doctor was able to diagnose the illness
and prescribe the proper medication. Slowly but steadily, the son's
condition began to improve. Before leaving, he warned the father to
carefully watch that his child would not eat any food containing animal fat.
A few months later, before leaving on a business trip, the father
instructed the household to carefully follow the dietary directives given
by the doctor. The next day, however, the child smelled the aroma of meat
cooking and was overcome with desire. Without saying a word to anyone, he
grabbed a piece of meat, stuffed it into his mouth and ran outside.
The relapse was almost immediate. The father, upon his return, found his
son hanging perilously between life and death. He immediately summoned the
doctor who had previously saved his son's life. When the doctor arrived,
the father pleaded with him to do whatever he could and promised that,
should the son live, he would never again leave his side. The doctor was
able to stabilize his condition and the child soon recuperated.
A short time later, the father invited many guests to a festive meal. As
the guests entered the dining hall, they were overwhelmed by the aroma and
the display of the many dishes being served. The host was graciously
welcoming all of his guests and inviting them to partake when, suddenly,
his son entered the dining area. To the astonishment of his guests, the
demeanor of the host changed drastically and the son was literally chased
from the area. Not a single person, besides the father himself, was able to
understand his seeming 'cruelty'...
At times, Hashem seems to keep the righteous away from things that everyone
else is allowed to partake of. Only the Master of the Universe, with His
perfect knowledge of each individual, can truly understand how these
seemingly cruel acts are, in fact, the epitome of kindness. "Ha'tzur tamim
pa'alo... tzaddik v'yashar hoo" - His actions are perfect... He is
righteous and straight.
What glimpse of an understanding can we obtain? There are times that we can
see through our disappointment and realize that an occurrence really is in
our best interest. A child who is wildly abusing the car that his parents
bought for him understands, deep down inside, the ultimate benefit of being
grounded. However, many times we are at a complete loss in understanding
how a certain event is beneficial for us.
Once again, the Chofetz Chaim paints a fascinating picture, affording us a
glimpse of what goes on 'behind the scenes'. At times, a person curses his
rotten 'luck'. Others are successful and he flounders every opportunity.
He, who is trying to do the will of Hashem is falling flat on his face,
while others who are, let's say, somewhat less motivated to do the will of
Hashem, seem to be doing quite well...
It is known that even Yom Kippur cannot atone for sins committed against
man unless a sincere apology is made and accepted. One who embarrassed
someone else and wasn't forgiven must return to this world to correct that
wrong. [There is a beautiful prayer called Tfilas Zakah, said before Kol
Nidrei on the eve of Yom Kippur, where one forgives all those who might
have wronged him/her. The idea being that we don't want anyone to be
punished on account of us. We are all children of Hashem and no parent
feels kindly toward someone who caused him to punish his child.]
When a person being judged before the heavenly court hears that he must
return to the physical world he grieves bitterly over the environment which
caused him to sin. Why was I so wealthy!?!? That caused me to feel haughty
and allowed me to embarrass that person so thoroughly! Had I only been
poor, I would have been so much more sensitive to the feelings of others. I
never would have committed such a callous act! Please, don't send me
back... who knows if I'll correct things there or if I'll destroy even
Once it becomes clear that he must return, he now begs to return as a poor
or sickly person and not have to experience that same difficult test of
haughtiness. The straight decree of justice pronounces that, in order to
correct his previous misdeeds, he must overcome the same exact situation.
However, the Attribute of Mercy, taking into account all of the mitzvas
performed in his previous lifetime acquiesces to his pleas, and agrees to
send him back as a pauper.
Who knows, the Chofetz Chaim writes, if a situation that we complain so
bitterly about now, is in fact, the very situation that we pleaded and
begged to be in. "Ha'tzur tamim pa'alo... tzaddik v'yashar hoo" - His
actions are perfect... He is righteous and straight.
This is, in fact, the very essence of the 'malchius' of Rosh Hashana. Our
accepting that all that occurs in life is directed from the 'Melech
Ha'olam', the King of the Universe. There is a difference between a
'melech', usually defined as a king, and a 'moshel', usually defined as a
ruler. The rule of a melech is accepted by his subjects, whereas, a moshel
imposes his authority on unwilling parties. Rosh Hashana is the time for us
to accept Hashem as the melech of the universe and, most importantly, as
the melech of ourselves.
The very first Rosh Hashana of the world, the day on which Adam Harishon
was created, was a day of judgment and forgiveness. Adam ate from the 'eitz
hada'as', the tree of knowledge, was judged by Hashem and was forgiven.
Chazal teach us that this serves as a sign for us, his children. We too,
will be judged on this day and emerge forgiven.
At first glance, this seems difficult to understand. Let's look at Adam's
'forgiveness'... "The land is cursed due to you... thorns will grow for
you... with the sweat of your brow you will eat bread until you return to
the earth that you were taken from. (Breishis 3:17-19) One additional
aspect of his 'forgiveness' was being banished from Gan Eden! Exactly what
is the comforting sign that we, his children, are supposed to learn from
Adam's judgment and forgiveness?!?!
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch writes that Adam, being drawn after the
pleasures of the world, needed to be in an environment where the pleasures
where not so easily accessible. Every act that we perform changes us and
alters the ideal environment wherein we can best perform. Whereas Gan Eden
was at first, before the sin, a true Garden of Eden for him; once he
sinned, it was no longer his ideal environment. The 'cursed land' turned
into his new Gan Eden - the environment which afforded him the maximum
potential growth. His 'punishment' was his 'forgiveness'. Hashem dealing
with the new reality and shaping the world to fit man's needs.
This is the comforting sign for us, his children. Any decree of the
'malchus shamayim', the Heavenly Kingdom, even if it appears to be severe,
contains in it the forgiveness of creating for us the proper environment
wherein we can best operate. It is our job, on these holy days of Rosh
Hashana, to choose to play an active role in this kingdom, and to willingly
accept all that this kingdom chooses for us.
K'siva v'chasima tova - may you be blessed with a year of happiness and
growth. Good shabbos.
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in
Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).