The One And Only
This was shown to you so that you could know that God is God, and that
there is none but Him. (Devarim 4:35)
This is a very obvious statement for a Torah-abiding Jew. To believe
otherwise is a complete violation of the most important principle of Torah,
and it renders the performance of all other mitzvos meaningless. Yet,
amazingly, as clear as this statement may be in theory, it seems not so
clear in practice, for every day Torah Jews act in ways that are partially,
and sometimes totally, in contradiction of this most basic principle of
It’s not that we are hypocrites. That’s a different problem. It’s that we
don’t realize that what we are doing is in violation of the principle of
“Ain Ohd Milvado” — “there is none but Him.” We simply don’t realize
what it means to live with the reality that God is everywhere, at all
involved in our lives on all levels, and that nothing, but nothing escapes
His awareness or overrides His will. Anytime that it seems to the contrary,
it is merely an illusion, a very convincing one, perhaps, but an illusion
As mentioned last week, this is what it means when it says that on the
Day of Judgment, God will only have to say, “I am God,” and people will be
unable to respond from the shock of such a statement (Bereishis Rabbah
93:10). For, at that time, God will reveal to each individual how He was
completely involved in his or her life, and how we simply ignored the
Providence, often to our detriment, fooled instead by the people through
whom He chose to work, and the events that unfolded.
The righteous person, the true yireh Shamayim — fearer of Heaven — as the
Hebrew word implies, is the person who can “see” God around him at all
times. He is the person who can stand before God on the Final Day of
Judgment and say, “You are God!” meaning that, “I saw You at all times
throughout the course of my life, and felt Your partnership all along the
way. It is what guided me at all times, and why I chose the path that I
did.” Hence, the Talmud says that, someone who loses his temper is like one
who worships idols (Shabbos 105a). Really? Is it really that bad? How can
that be? Well, just think about it: why do we get angry in the first place?
Because we know we deserved what happened to us? No, because we think that
we DON’T deserve what occurred to us, and our anger is a way of screaming
However, the verse from this week’s parsha says it’s not like that at all.
Even if the person who wrongs us has clearly done something incorrect, it
wouldn’t have happened to us had we not deserved it on some level, because
“all that God does He does for the good” (Brochos 61a): everything, large
small, is just, no matter how innocent we believe that we are at the time.
This does not mean, however, that one must suffer all wrongs with
equanimity, and do nothing at all. Quite the contrary! Instead, one must,
when he can, point out the wrong others are doing, and try and make the
world a better place. However, at some point during one’s rectification of
Creation, he has to consider the question, “Why did this happen to me
What is it meant to rectify in my own personal life? What am I meant to
learn from it?”
Even what seems like a mistake is not an accident. For example, even though
people may get married thinking that they are perfect for each other, only
to find out later that they cannot live with each other, it does not mean
that the marriage itself was a mistake. Rather, all of it was necessary at
the time for the sake of personal tikun, even though Heaven knew that the
marriage would eventually end in divorce. It was b’shert, meant to happen.
The trouble with all of this is we don’t get to see it, often, until well
after the fact, if at all in this world. And, as sloppy and as
as human cans be, we still like to get it right the first time. Healthy
human beings do not purposely make mistakes, and would rather not leave
things to chance. So, when things do not go as we planned them, we get
upset, feel as if we have failed, and frustrated, we get angry, especially
when we err in ways that we think we could have avoided. In such
circumstances, saying “All is for the good” is not easy, at least not with
It’s like that joke they tell about the man caught in a flood. As the
rise, a boat comes along and offers the man a ride to safety.
“No thanks,” the man says, proud of his level of faith in God, “I believe
God will save me.”
“Suit yourself,” the man in the boat shrugs, as he drives off to help other
people, and the waters continue to rise, forcing the man to the second
of his home. However, as we waits for the hand of God to personally save
him, another boat comes along and tells him to get in while he can, because
the flood waters are showing no signs of receding.
“No thanks,” the man again says proudly, emboldened by the unique
opportunity to prove his faith in God. “I believe God will save me.”
“Suit yourself,” the man in the second boat says, shaking his head, as he
veers off to help other stranded homeowners. In the meantime, the rising
flood waters force the man to his roof, where he is finally spotted by a
“Grab the rope and climb aboard,” the man in the helicopter yells to him
above the din of the rotating blades.
“No thanks!” the man on the roof yells back, still certain that a miracle
will happen to save him from drowning. Therefore, unable to convince the
to climb into the helicopter, the rescue team goes off in search of others
willing to be rescued.
Sure enough, the water rises to the roof, and then above the man’s head,
he drowns. Shortly after, he finds himself in Heaven, waiting to be brought
before the Heavenly Court. After some time, and a lot of angry pacing
back-and-forth by the drowned man, an angel comes out to call him in to the
inner chamber. However, before the Chief Magistrate can say a word, the man
bursts out and cries,
“Where were you?! I invested all of my faith in you, that you would save my
life as you always promised you would if I had faith, and you go ahead and
let me drown! What kind of reward for faith was that?”
For a long moment, there is silence in the Court Room, as if the man has
made a valid point. Until, that is, the Chief Magistrate leans forward and
says calmly, but firmly,
“What do you mean? Who do you think sent you the two boats and the
Thus, faith, the man had. A clear vision of Hashgochah Pratis, however, he
sorely lacked. And, as the story indicates, one without the other, usually,
is not enough, at least not to save one’s life. For, as the expression
“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” and, “God has many messengers,” and
many types of messengers, as Jewish history has show on so many occasions.
Indeed, oftentimes God has accomplished very holy ends through what had
seemed to us, at the time, to be less-than-holy means.
Hence, the Talmud states: Why does the letter Ayin come before the letter
Peh [in Eichah]? Because of the Spies, who spoke about that which they did
not see. (Sanhedrin 104b)
They did? Are we not taught that no lie can stand that does not contain an
element of truth. Indeed, the Spies even brought back fruit of the land to
prove that they had not fabricated their story. Therefore, what does the
Talmud mean by this accusatory statement?
The answer, as mentioned last week, is also in Rashi, when they complained
that “the land swallows its inhabitants” (Bamidbar 13:32). This they had
clearly seen, at least with their physical eyes, but they had misperceived
it. For, as Rashi explains, God had arranged for the Canaanites to be too
preoccupied with burying their dead to chase down a few strangers
investigating their land. Their mouths spoke about a curse that had been,
fact, a blessing, and this became the basis of Tisha B’Av.
And as the Talmud says, if the Temple has not been re-built in our day,
it means that we are perpetuating the same sin (Yerushalmi, Yoma 10:1), to
this very day.
This is the “Shabbos of Consolation,” something that can only be achieved
when we put the Peh back where it belongs, after the Ayin. And, this is
something that can only be done once a person reaches the intellectual
of ain ohd milvado. For the greatest cause of fear and terror in life is
sense of randomness that it creates, giving man the impression that
everything is hefker — without any Divine rhyme or reason. There can be no
greater source of vulnerability than this.
Ain ohd milvado says that, even in what appears to be the most
out-of-control situations, everything is still in control — always (Chullin
7b). It can be no other way, since everything exists within God, and
can exist, or act the way it does, if it is not a function of the will of
God. That is a fundamental of Torah, and the basis of the first two of the
It is also the underlying basis of Shabbos Nachamu. In fact, this is the
“chinum” part of the bechias chinum — the unwarranted crying — of the
Generation of the Spies that resulted in Tisha B’Av (Ta’anis 29a), and the
sinnus chinum — the unwarranted hatred — that resulted in the destruction
the Second Temple. Yes, there is a time to cry in history, and yes, there
even a time to hate, but not when God says that it isn’t the time. Their
sadness of the Generation of the Spies was the result of their own mistaken
priorities, as was the hatred of the generation of the destruction
of Second Temple. It was their shared misperception of reality that
in unwarranted and false reactions. All of that disappears when a person
rises to the level of perception that everything is a function of the will
of God, and that all He does is for our good, even if it ruins our plans.
For, the person who can see everything as a function of Hashgochah Pratis
learns to adjust his life according to the will of God, and in doing so,
become fitting for comfort from God Himself.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.