Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.
A man of faith believes in G-d and has a very good life. When trouble strikes, his faith still inspires him. He trusts in G-d and knows that everything is for the best. If he must suffer, he realizes that it will atone for his sins. If this is not necessary, these troubles will ultimately bring him a much greater benefit. No matter what happens, he realizes that G-d ultimately only does good. The man of faith therefore always has a good life, both in this world and the next. — Sichot HaRan # 102
We previously mentioned that a life with faith and trust, is a life of bliss. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, increased trust equals increased happiness.
That said, we do find very often that some of the most devout people, endure much suffering. What happens when a person has trust in Hashem, yet still experiences struggles and hardships?
In last weeks Torah portion, we received the mitzvah of shemitta, which forbids agricultural work throughout the seventh year. The farmers are required to leave the field untouched for an entire year. Additionally, they must allow anyone to come and help themselves to their field’s produce. The Torah foresees that the farmers will naturally wonder, “What will we eat in the seventh year, if we will not plant or gather our grain?!” Rabbi Efrem Goldberg compares this to somebody who worked hard for six years to build a business, and is then required to leave the business alone, doing absolutely no work for an entire year. Understandably, the farmer will wonder, “What will we eat?!”
Hashem reassures the farmer that in reward for his observance of this challenging mitzvah, Hashem will ensure his sustenance during the coming years. The fields will miraculously produce extra quantities of grain during the sixth year to compensate for the lost produce due to the observance of shemitta.
Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, in Noam Elimelech, asks why the Torah presents this promise in such a roundabout manner – as the response to the farmer’s question of “What will we eat in the seventh year?” Why did Hashem not simply state after presenting the mitzvah of shemitta, that He will provide sufficient produce to sustain them during the shemitta year and beyond?
Rav Yaakov Bender explains that the Torah wants to teach us a critically important lesson: It is okay to express concern. It is okay to ask, “How will we manage?”
We are human beings, and it is perfectly natural, and acceptable, for us to show concern. We must strive to counterbalance our anxiety with faith and trust, but at the same time, nobody should feel ashamed over expressing legitimate worries.
We live in a time referred to by Rebbe Nachman as a “concealment within a concealment.” Hashem’s presence is hidden from us. Because of this concealment, it becomes difficult for us to keep the faith alive during difficult circumstances. (If Hashem’s presence was always manifest, we would never have any questions or doubts.) As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “When the time arrives for Mashiach to come, many people will cry about faith. It will be very difficult to remain firm in faith…”
But Rebbe Nachman assures us, “In truth, even in all the concealments—even in a concealment within a concealment—Hashem is certainly enclothed there as well.” If we search for Hashem, we will find Him.
Certain basic fears and anxieties are expected. But these moments of uncertainty are opportunities to turn to Hashem. This is the purpose of the uncertainty.
As Rebbe Nachman said, “Hashem saw that there would be people who would cling to our holy faith, suffering greatly because of the confusion and doubts that constantly plague them. He perceived that they would overcome these doubts and remain strong in their beliefs. It was because of this that Hashem brought forth all creation.”
The original feelings of fear and anxiety are natural, but we must ensure that we don’t dwell on these negative thoughts. When the fear and anxiety become excessive, they begin to consume us. The trick is to catch ourselves as quickly as possible, and to be assured that Hashem will take care of us.
Now, it’s important to note that certain things we simply cannot understand logically. Where logic ends, faith begins.
This weeks Torah portion is Bechukosai. A Chok is different than a Mishpat, inasmuch that a Chok is a divine dictate, whereas a Mishpat is a logical law (i.e. we are provided with the reasoning for the Mishpat but not for a Chok). Of course, there is a reason for the Chok, but we aren’t privy to that information.
Whether the mitzvah is a Chok or a Mishpat, we abide by it because we were instructed by Hashem to follow His directive. After receiving the Torah at Har Sinai, the Jewish people answered, “Naaseh V’nishma’ (We will do, and we will hear). We follow first, and ask questions later. If we are fortunate enough, we will come to understand the reasoning behind the commandment.
And this is a lesson in faith. We may not understand the rationale behind all of life’s challenges or seemingly painful experiences, but we must believe that there is a reason, far beyond our comprehension. One day, we will merit to see how everything was for our best (at large and on an individual level).
As the Chasam Sofer teaches, “The ways of Hashem are mysterious in present, but are understood – if we are so privileged – in retrospect.”
The Baal Shem Tov teaches, “We can’t control life, but we can control our attitude.” With the right mindset, we can overcome all of life’s challenges.
When difficult times befall, the Evil Inclination tries to label Hashem as harsh or punitive, G-d forbid. But when a person has trust in Hashem, they understand that even the darkest of times are temporary and are merely preparing us for something great. All experiences stem from Hashem’s love and kindness. These are all blessings in disguise.
Dovid HaMelech wrote, “Hashem covers the heavens with clouds and prepares the rain for the earth, so that the hills will be green with grass” (Tehillim 147:8). Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, known as the Noda B’Yehudah, teaches, “The cloudy days of life are forecasting a downpour of blessings from above.”
There is still much to be said on this topic. With Hashem’s help, we hope to wrap it up in the following post.
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