by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"But they did not listen to Moshe, because of their fallen spirits and the
difficult work..." [6:9]
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meyer Kagan, was once sitting with his
family and friends, and he spoke about the terrible situation in the Jewish
community of his day. People had truly lost their faith in G-d, and were
moving away from religion.
Reb Naftali was the Rosh Mesivta (high school principal) in the yeshiva in
Radin, and he was one of those listening. He responded, "Why is this a
great surprise? Even in Egypt, when the Jews still remembered their
forefathers, and also knew that the exile would only last 400 years, they
were nonetheless so disheartened by the sheer amount of work placed upon
them, that they lost hope. In our current situation, our forefathers are
long forgotten, and our exile is apparently endless. Why should we be
surprised then, if we see people losing their faith?"
The Chofetz Chaim considered this, and realized that he was right. "You are
a good defender for Israel," he said. "Your words should ascend before the
No one should tell you that faith is easy. It may be possible to achieve
it with logical steps, rather than a "leap." It can be maintained with
study and consideration. But it is hardly trivial.
It is difficult for us to recognize that Hand of G-d in painful events. As
Rabbi Zev Leff points out, this is a result of our own limited perspective.
The Talmud (Pesachim 50a) asks, how can the prophet write (Zechariah 14:9)
"On that day G-d will be One, and His Name, One"? Are G-d and His Name not
One, right now?
The answer is that, in reality, everything that G-d does is good, but in
our current circumstances we are unable to recognize this. We distinguish
between the blessing ("hatov vehameitiv", Who is good and does good) that
we say upon receiving good news, versus the blessing that we say upon bad
news ("Dayan haEmes," the True Judge). In the World to Come, and in the
Messianic Era, we will recognize that these are one and the same. We will
see G-d's Mercy in every event. Today, we do not pronounce the four-letter
name of G-d which indicates His transcendence of time, and His Mercy --
then, we will.
So do not be overly disappointed if, in the midst of trying times, you find
yourself with doubts. On the contrary, understand that such trials are
hardly new. Just strengthen yourself with the knowledge that those who
remained strong were right, and were eventually taken out of Egypt. May we
see this exile end soon, as well, and reach the days when "G-d will be One,
and His Name, One."
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