Part 33: Chapter 6, Verses 12- 21
12. Is my strength the strength of stones? Or is my flesh of brass?
not my help in me? And is sound policy driven quite from me?
14. One who
withholds kindness from his friend abandons the fear of G-d.
brothers betrayed me like a streams of water that pass in the wadi;
which are frozen by the ice and which the snow disolves.
17. When the time
comes they grow warm, they vanish; when it is hot, they are consumed out of
18. The caravans turn this way and that in their course; they
go up into the waste and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema looked, the
companies of Sheva waited for them (the streams of water) they were
confounded because they had hoped;
20. they came there, and were
abashed.=(because they found no water in the stream beds)
21. Now you are
like that; you see terror and are afraid.
At this point Iyov begins to 'prove' his position. Iyov finds that his life
has become an impossible situation; after all, his physical strength does
have a breaking point. Whereas stone and brass retain their strength
indefinitely organic matter such as flesh and blood is by its very nature
destined to disintegrate. Eventually, as Iyov's internal strength is spent,
his body will succumb to the horrific flesh consuming disease that afflicts
him. As far as Elifaz's position is concerned Iyov takes an offensive
approach. If G-d actually appeared to Elifaz with a message of consolation
for Iyov why did He overlook Iyov and deliver His message to Elifaz. Is
Iyov less worthy of Divine communication than Elifaz? Why couldn't G-d turn
directly to Iyov since he is the suffering party?
In addition to this Elifaz claims that G-d is punishing Iyov in order to
secure him a brighter future in this world and preserve for him a portion
in the world to come. But his style of delivery is lacking, to say the
least. One might say that Elifaz has an extremely offensive bedside manner.
After all, Iyov is sick and suffering terrible physical and emotional pain.
Instead of using gentle words of kindness Elifaz attacks Iyov with a
barrage of accusations of iniquities, character faults, and shallowness of
faith. Elifaz has good intentions; to strengthen Iyov's faith and
rehabilitate his trust in a just and compassionate G-d. Nevertheless, he
should have delivered his remarks with the same sort of compassion that he
claims that G-d possesses. Instead of accusing Iyov of spiritual and
character weakness he should have helped Iyov to understand for himself-not
to preach- the possible root of his troubles. Iyov cannot accept this type
of reproach. In his eyes it is absolutely unfathomable that G-d delivered
such a thoughtless message. Therefore, Iyov totally rejects Elifaz's claim
that his message is prophetic.
Iyov now lashes out at his friends. They have been sitting quietly with
Iyov for seven days without uttering a single word of comfort or
encouragement. If your friend is experiencing physical or emotional trauma
he needs to hear words of comfort. Until you do so you are not only remiss
in fulfillment of your obligations to your fellow man but are also
unmindful of your obligations to G-d. Eye rolling and knee buckling
submission to the awesome power of G-d are not necessarily genuine
expressions of fear of G-d. True reverence of G-d demands of us that we
attempt to emulate His ways. G-d is the great comforter of all. Anyone who
has experienced the sublime closeness of G-d at times of difficulty and
tribulation can testify to the comfort and support that G-d's presence
provides. One who genuinely fears[reveres] G-d will conduct himself in a
manner similar to his Creator. When your friend is in trouble don't preach
to him - comfort him.
For many people the seasonal streams of water that flow in channels may be
essential sources of water. However, often they are not reliable because
they may freeze in the winter, dry-up in the summer, or be absorbed by the
porous ground. Eventually they disappear into thin trickles that quickly
vanish. For the thirsty and parched sojourners who rely upon them this can
be a great disappointment. Iyov's friends are likened to these
disappointments. Iyov is in dire need of strength and encouragement. He
looks forward to the comforting words and support that only strong
friendships can supply. Instead he is humiliated by their callous
Now Iyov gives a penetrating and startling insight into human nature. He
turns to his friends with the following... "Rather than comforting me you
have taken the position of my prosecutor. You have taken up the side of G-d
because you cannot bear the discomfort that my suffering causes you. You
are afraid that if G-d deals with the righteous Iyov with such severity
there can be no hope that you will receive anything better. Because you
fear for your own skin you are afraid to defend me."
Often we are deeply disturbed by the suffering of others. However, at times
we may be more concerned that something similar does not happen to us than
genuinely care for the welfare of the one who is suffering. Such an
attitude is usually not at the forefront of our mind, nevertheless, it
lurks just under the surface. When we come with such a perspective we
cannot possibly be a source of comfort for our suffering friends because it
is our own wellbeing, not their welfare, that is our prime concern. In
order to help others during their time of need you must be totally focused
on their experience. It is true that in order to accomplish this you will
need to identify with them, to feal that their pain is yours. But
identification is not the goal; only the means to achieve the goal. The
goal is to alleviate some of their pain and suffering by communicating the
message that they are not alone; that we bear part of the yoke of their
suffering on our shoulders.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of
Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.