In this week's Parsha, we read that "The Rock, His work is perfect, for all
His ways are justice; a G-d of faithfulness and without iniquity, he is just
and right." (Dvarim 32:4)
But do we believe this? Do we look around us at the world and see that good
is being rewarded, and evil is repaid in turn? This is far from clear.
So Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, author of the Chofetz Chaim and the MishnaBrura (see the Gossip and Halacha-Yomi lists, respectively, for more info),
gave us a story that will help us to understand:
There was once a very rich man, who lived in a big house and had all that he
could want in the world. The joy of his life, however, was his only son -
and this son was very sick. He flew in doctor after doctor, all in an
attempt to find the cure for his son's mysterious illness, but none
succeeded. Finally one specialist was found who was capable of curing him.
The doctor did so, and warned the father carefully to keep his son away
from any meat, because between the illness and the cure the son was now
liable to become very sick again if he even tasted it.
After a period of time, the father was called away on business, and the son
was left in the care of the hired help. Of course, the father carefully
warned them about the doctor's orders... but they were not as careful. With
meat in the house, it was inevitable that the little boy (who only knew that
he was being denied something he liked very much) would eventually snatch
a piece and run off with it when no one was looking.
Of course, the son immediately relapsed, and he was truly close to death when
the father was able to find the specialist, cry out his story, and ask that
the doctor once again try to save his son. He even swore that should the
son live, he would never go out again on business, but that he would
personally supervise his son to ensure his health.
With a great effort, the doctor succeeded once again to bring the son back
from the the brink of death; and when the son returned to health, the father
made a party for all of his close friends and family. However, the father
was careful to send his son away from the big hall, where all the guests
were sitting and enjoying themselves over a big selection of - you guessed it
- meat and chicken dishes for the main course. So all the guests, who knew
nothing of the reason for the son's illness or the delicate nature of the
cure, were more than a bit amazed that this "cruel father" would send his
son out, even though he was crying to be allowed into the room. Only the
father understood the full situation.
Well, the same is true for us - we don't know the full situation. We don't
know what is happening in this world, much less the next! And so it is
impossible for us to judge for ourselves.
I once heard a Rabbi comment on a verse in Psalm 145, which is part of the
daily morning prayers. It reads, "G-d guards all those who love Him, but
all the wicked he will destroy." Imagine someone who walks in a bit late
(in Hebrew, by the way, the same letter can represent 'but' or 'and'):
the latecomer hears that "All those who love him, and all the wicked he
will destroy!" And the one who leaves early hears that "G-d guards those
who love him and all the wicked!"
We, of course, are only here for a brief moment. We don't know if it's up
or down, but it appears to us as if everything is all jumbled in a pile -
whether there really is an absolute good or evil is even doubted by many
people. Rather, we have to rely on what we know from other sources, rather
than from simply looking at the world around us.