In the end of last week’s parsha Moshe complains to G-d. “Why have You bestowed evil to this people…?” Moshe was upset about how conditions for the Jews had worsened since he came to Pharaoh to request a week of leave for the nation. G-d’s response is explained in Rashi (Exodus 6:9), that G-d rebuked Moshe for complaining and questioning Him. G-d then goes on to illustrate how the Patriarchs (Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov) never complained for not having seen the fulfillment of the promises G-d made to them.
We must ask, however, that there is an obvious difference between the Nature of Moshe’s complaints and that which the patriarchs would have had to complain about. Moshe was not complaining about anything personal. He was not upset about G-d delaying the fulfillment of His promise to Moshe. Rather, his complaint pertained to the suffering of the Jewish people. Regarding himself, he could have been forgiving. It was the harsh decrees which Moshe was complaining about.
Because of this question, there are commentaries which explain that the reason G-d rebuked Moshe was for his having said “why did You bestow evil to this people?” The support for this view is that when Moshe pleaded for the forgiveness of the Jews when they sinned with the Golden Calf, he said “why G-d, should Your anger burn against Your people…”? (Exodus 32:11). In that context Moshe questions G-d, but makes no reference to bestowing evil to the Jews, and G-d accepts Moshe’s plea with favor. The basis of G-d’s rebuke here is that all things which occur in the world are all for the ultimate good. Moshe has no right to qualify what G-d does as evil.
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz quotes a midrash. There were three men among Pharaoh’s advisors. One was Bilaam, the evil prophet who tried to curse the Jews (Numbers, 22). The second was Iyov, or Job, who is the victim of unspeakable sickness and suffering, in the Biblical Book of Job. The third is Yisro, who became the father-in-law of Moshe. Bilaam recommended enslaving the Jews. Iyov took the fifth amendment, and Yisro ran away. Bilaam who gave the evil advice was ultimately killed by the sword. Iyov who stayed quiet, suffered terrible sickness, and Yisro was rewarded. It seems strange that Bilaam’s punishment should be a fast death, while Iyov should suffer a prolonged illness. Where is the justice in that? Iyov only kept quiet when he should have protested.
The theme of Rabbi Shmulevitz’s answer is that life is such a precious gift, that even living in suffering is not as bad as dying. Waking up in the morning is like winning the lottery every day, and that is a gross understatement. When a person wins the lottery, the small things which would usually bother him suddenly look much less significant.
This is what King David writes in Psalms 118. “G-d gives me suffering, but He does not put me in the hands of death.” Even though I experience suffering at the hand of G-d, but still he does not allow me to die. This attitude is the result of properly evaluating the kindness which we are bestowed in being given life.
There is a fundamental in Jewish belief. That is that there is this world, which we occupy now, and a there is also a world to come. In that spiritual world we will experience a profound closeness to G-d, which will pale even the most extreme ecstasy which we can experience in this world. Our relatively short stay in this world is meant for us to earn the world to come – through living properly within the circumstances which we find ourselves in. Our lives are designed carefully and precisely in order to facilitate our earning the world to come by completing the job we were sent here for. In this context it is not as difficult to accept whatever we may need to live through in order to earn our place in the world to come.
Contrary to popular perception, in traditional Judaism all questions are acceptable. There is no such thing as the stifling “you just can’t ask that.” However, that doesn’t mean that G-d will share everything with us. There are many things we would not understand even if they would be explained to us, and we are not privy to everything. Even Moshe, at a time of great favor, requested from G-d the reason why good people suffer, and G-d did not share the reason with him. The bottom line is that everything which happens is purposeful, even if we don’t understand it.
One who learns to internalize this idea will come to view life with a completely different perspective. Whether one finds himself in a traffic jam, or something much worse G-d forbid, the peace of mind that “everything which G-d does is for the good” will make every “bad” experience bearable.