Since Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos this year, we won't readParashas HaAzinu until the following week, b"H. However, I am sending it out early because its message is certainly applicable and worth reviewing over the next two weeks.
Also, with 5764 coming around very quickly, I wish to thank all my readers and those who have helped deliver this parshah sheet to them every week. It is far more inspiring to write when you know there are people willing to read it. I wish all of you a Kesivah v'chasimah tovah, and a new year filled only with good news and well-being, for all of the Jewish people.
The Rock! - perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice . . . (Devarim 32:4)It is interesting. We humans have many ways to refer to G-d, and perhaps the most interesting one is to call him "The Rock." The reason is obvious, as the Prudential Life Insurance Company proves. For, they like to refer to themselves as "the rock" as well, not because they consider themselves to be G-d, but because they wish to convey a sense of strength and reliability, something insurance companies ought to be (or at least appear to be).
Humans come and go, and the rocks are one of the few things in this world that have seen most of them do just that, while they stick around for millennia. True, rocks erode somewhat, and over time even water and wind have their way with even the largest of stones. However, for the most part, they remain the symbol of well-rooted and extremely strong and reliable foundations.
However, Rashi sees in this reference to G-d an allusion to His unfathomable mercy:THE ROCK! - PERFECT: Even though He is strong, when He brings punishment to those who transgress His will He does not bring it in a flood, but rather He brings it with deliberation. (Rashi)What prompted Rashi to say that? The Sifsei Chachamim explains that this was the very reason why Moshe Rabbeinu called God "The Rock" in the first place. In other words, we already know G-d is as solid, spiritually-speaking of course, as they get. Why mention His "solidity" here, if not to emphasize that, in spite of G-d's supreme strength. He bends Himself to be fair and deliberate in judgment.
Secondly, says the Sifsei Chachamim, the posuk mentions G-d's perfect actions, which implies justice in all that He does. Nothing G-d does is ever less or more than what the purpose of creation mandates, and therefore what is best for mankind. We may not like the results, but that does not change the fact that everything G-d has ever done, does now, or will ever do is perfect beyond any perfection we can relate to. G-d simply does not make mistakes, not even little ones.
In other words, Hashgochah Pratis never misses. Human beings can take up a weapon, use an expert aiming device, and still miss. However, when it comes to Divine Providence, it hits its intended target exactly where it is meant to hit, each time.
What does this mean?
In a few possukim, the Torah explains:Remember the days of the world; understand the years from generation to generation. (Devarim 32:7)Interesting. For whom is this intended? Is it intended for the non-believers who dominate today's world population? Even those who believe in Torah have difficulty comprehending what happened back in the days of yore, and they certainly have difficulty seeing G-d stepping into history on such a large scale today- even though the prophets warned us that He will.
REMEMBER THEDAYS: What He (G-d) did to the early ones, who angered Him; UNDERSTAND THE YEARS FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION: Enosh's generation, who He flooded with the waters of the Atlantic, and the Generation of the Flood whom He washed away. (Rashi)
What then is the overall message of this verse as we sit here on Shabbos Shuva, perhaps hanging on for dear life as Yom Kippur approaches in only 2 days? Last year's carnage in Eretz Yisroel, especially recently of the number 2 bus on its way back from the Kosel, and of the well-known doctor and his daughter - one day before her wedding.
Remember the days of the world; understand the years from generation to generation. (Devarim 32:7)When it comes to a parent-child relationship, there are times when their lives interact, and many times when they don't. Often parents find out well after the fact, perhaps even decades later, that their children did either good or not-so-good things, things that might have changed their position towards their children had they known about them at the time.
In other words, when it comes to human beings, their lives are not always interactive. How can they be? Not being omniscient, we can't know everything others do even though we'd like to, and maybe evenneed to, at least as far as we are concerned. How many things might we have done differently had we only known at the time it would make a difference in what others thought or did to affect our lives?
Not so when it comes to G-d. He is omniscient; He sees everything. Everything! Even the things we are not conscious of, He knows about. With respect to G-d, it can't be any other way, for that would imply something could exist outside of Him, which is the basis of idol worship and heresy. As Kabbalah explains, He is called HaMakom - "The Place" - because He is the place of the world, that is, it exists within Him, so-to-speak.
The verse above is there to remind us that creation, by its very nature and plan, is interactive. G-d is "plugged" in to every detail and facet of our daily lives, both encouraging us and responding to our decisions every moment of our conscious lives. There are only two things He wants: the fulfillment of creation, and the fulfillment of each individual that makes creation worthwhile.
In other words, Enosh's generation was not wiped away for nothing. They did something, and G-d responded. They turned their hearts to idol worship, and G-d flooded them for the good of creation. Noach's generation didn't pay attention to this cause-and-effect relationship, and brought to themselves an even greater calamity. If only Noach's generation had remembered the days of the world, and understood the years from generation to generation.
The inherent danger in not recalling this fundamental basis of creation is two-fold. First, people live their lives as if creation runs on auto-pilot, and life becomes a free-for-all. What good is morality in a world when there is not G-d to impress? Rather, "eat, drink, and be merry" seems to be a more enjoyable way of life, which leads to the second aspect of danger: Shock.
What happens when children know that their father pays attention to the things they do, rewarding their good deeds and punishing their bad ones? What happens when they know they have done a bad thing, and they hear their father coming, calling out to them? What do they do then?
They anticipate. They know they are going to get caught and they know what getting caught means. Whatever happens from that point onward does not catch them by surprise, though the outcome may smart them. But they'll recover with their relationship with their father intact, and perhaps that much wiser to avoid the mistake the next time around.
To illustrate what this means on a historical level, I want to return to an example we have used before, because it is the best one there is.
"Who is this who disgraces [My judgment, which is made with] secret wisdom, with words [which he speaks] without knowledge [of the secret wisdom]? . . . Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell [Me] if you have knowledge to understand its foundation?" (Iyov 38:1-4)A perfect example of this idea is the story of Iyov, or Job. The story of Iyov is the quintessential example of an age-old philosophical issue, that being why do bad things happen to good people. It is a question, according to the Talmud, that even Moshe Rabbeinu himself asked God while he was on Har Sinai receiving the Torah (Brochos 7a).
Seemingly, Iyov had been a thoroughly righteous person who had done little wrong to warrant the personal destruction he experienced. Yet, prompted by G-d Himself, the Satan -the "Accusing Angel" - brought upon Iyov tremendous personal hardship, causing him to lose his wealth, his family, and even his own personal health.
The rest of the story is about Iyov coming to terms with his personal tragedy. First he, and then his friends, tried to find a rational explanation for his misfortune. With the exception of Elihu, they could find none, and therefore they concluded that Iyov could not have been as righteous as they had previously thought. For, they assumed, G-d does not punish and allow suffering for no reason.
However, Iyov rejected their deduction, knowing full well that he had done everything in his power to be loyal to G-d. And, after his friends took leave of him and G-d Himself paid Iyov a visit, he took the opportunity to question G-d about what had befallen him.
However, rather than sympathize with Iyov, G-d criticized him sharply for even questioning His judgment. Instead, He asked Iyov:"Who is this who disgraces [My judgment, which is made with] secret wisdom, with words [which he speaks] without knowledge [of the secret wisdom]? . . . Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell [Me] if you have knowledge to understand its foundation?" (Iyov 38:1-4)From there, G-d took Iyov on an intellectual tour of the universe, showing him the tremendous wisdom with which He made and maintains creation. And, in spite of the fact that G-d did not provide Iyov with a precise answer for his own personal tragedy, it seemed to have sufficed for Iyov, whose only response was:"Behold, I am worthless, so how can I answer You? I place my hand on my mouth. I have spoke once, and I won't respond [again]. A second time, I will not [complain] anymore." (Iyov 40:4-5)Humbled by the awesomeness of the Divine wisdom, Iyov felt ashamed that he ever doubted the workings of his Creator. He came to realize from G-d's response that, as smart as man may be, his vision of reality is still incredibly limited, and therefore he is never capable of fully comprehending Divine judgment, if at all. But there is more to this story than this.
[Consequently, G-d] has redeemed his soul from passing into Gihennom, and his living soul will see the light [of the World-to-Come, when the time comes for him to die]. (Iyov 33:28)However, though Iyov himself may not have been aware of the cause of his suffering, apparently the Talmud was:Rav Chiya bar Avva said in the name of Simai: Three were involved in that advice [to enslave and oppress the Jewish people], and they were Bilaam, Iyov, and Yisro. Bilaam advised to kill them, Iyov remained silent and was punished with suffering, and Yisro fled and merited descendants who sat in the "office of hewn stone" (i.e., the chamber in which the Sanhedrin officiated). (Sanhedrin 106a)It is so simple that you don't have to even resort to Sod to figure it out. Iyov had remained silent while standing before Pharaoh, and failed to cast the deciding vote in favor of freeing the Jewish people. And, since, as the Talmud teaches:All the traits of The Holy One, Blessed is He, are [based upon the principle of] measure-for-measure . . . (Sanhedrin 90a)- measure-for-measure, for having remained silent in Pharaoh's court and allowing, at least indirectly, the suffering of the Jewish nation in Egypt, Iyov himself was punished with tremendous suffering.
Anyone who ignores the Talmud and simply reads the Book of Iyov enters the story in the middle, so-to-speak, and not at the beginning. Of course questions are going to arise. However, in truth, it is Sod that provides the key pieces to the puzzle that truly reveal the justice in what occurred to the righteous Iyov. It also explains why the Satan plays such a major role in the story, many years after Iyov left the court of Pharaoh for his own home.
It took 116 years, but eventually the end of the Egyptian exile came, and the Jewish people left Egypt en masse in the year 2448/1313 BCE. Nevertheless, as the Torah writes, Pharaoh regretted his decision to free the slave nation and pursued them with his best soldiers, and trapped them at the shores of the Red Sea.
However, G-d divided the waters and allowed the descendants of Avraham to flee to safety once again. The sea splitting also drew the Egyptian army into the sea after them, after which G-d returned the waters and drowned every last Egyptian (except for Pharaoh himself) who entered the sea. Awestruck and extremely grateful, the Jewish people sang praise to G-d, reciting the following posuk:Your right hand, G-d, is glorious in power; Your right hand smashes into pieces the enemy. (Shemos 15:6)On the levels of Pshat, Remez, and Drush, there is nothing unusual about these words to suggest a deeper meaning. However, the Arizal points out, the letters of the word "enemy" (aleph-vav-yud-bais) are, in fact, the same letters as that of "Iyov" (aleph-yud-vav-bais), and this is not by coincidence, for it was Iyov who provided the means for the Jewish nation's escape across the sea.
How is that? The answer to that question comes from knowing what took place by the sea, just before it finally split and provided the fleeing Jewish people with dry land on which to tread. For, as the Jewish people stood in the water up to their necks and in a grave state of danger, it was then that the Prosecuting Angel - the Satan -hurled his accusations against the Jewish people before G-d.
"Master of the Universe," he argued, "did not the Jews worship idols in Egypt as well? Why do they deserve miracles?" (Yalkut Shimoni, 1:234) The truth was, as the Midrash points out, he had a good point. Indeed, the Jewish people, because of their previous deeds, warranted Divine punishment, and should have been left to drown right there in the sea. However, there was a problem, and that was that G-d had promised Avraham Avinu hundreds of years earlier:On that day, G-d made a covenant with Avram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land . . ." (Bereishis 15:18)And, as the Talmud points out:Every promise of good that comes from the mouth of The Holy One, Blessed is He, even if conditional, is never retracted. (Brochos 7a)This, of course, created a dilemma. On one hand, there was the promise made to Avraham Avinu to eventually bring his descendants toEretz Yisroel. However, the last of those descendants were neck-deep in a raging sea, with the Egyptian army ready to pounce on them from the other direction, while the Prosecuting Angel hovered above, removing all possibility of a miraculous salvation. What to do?
It is at this point that the Book of Iyov begins, reveals the Arizal:
G-d said to the Prosecuting Angel, "From where do you come?"
And the Prosecuting Angel answered G-d, "From searching the earth and from traveling in it [looking for people's sins]."
And G-d said, "Have you noticed My servant Iyov, that there is none like him on earth? [He is] a perfect and upright man who fears G-d and turns away from evil." (Iyov 1:7-8)
The Talmud has an expression: Do not open your mouth to the Satan (Kesuvos 8b), and the story of Iyov is the reason why. For, any type of bragging is a direct invitation to the Satan to come and investigate the merits and demerits of the one being praised, and if the investigation finds fault in the object of conceit, judgment can be swift and costly, perhaps even fatal.
Thus, speaking so highly of Iyov in the face of the Satan, G-d was, in effect, prompting an investigation into the merits and demerits of Iyov, and it is THIS that resulted in the supreme test he underwent. The only question is, since G-d knows this, why did He do it?
The answer is, to pull the Satan away from the Jewish people, in order to end his prosecution of them. This way, G-d could perform the necessary miracle to save the Jewish people, and fulfill the promise to Avraham Avinu. In other words, after failing to be the vehicle of redemption from the Egyptians 116 years earlier when he had the chance, Iyov was the vehicle for their redemption from the Egyptians -measure-for-PERFECT-measure - at the Red Sea.
However, the story of Iyov is not yet complete; Sod has more to say about the source of his suffering:Terach, Avraham's father, reincarnated into and was rectified by Iyov. (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 36)The truth is, this is really what Elihu told Iyov when he said:[Consequently, G-d] has redeemed his soul from passing into Gihennom, and his living soul will see the light [of the World-to-Come, when the time comes for him to die]. (Iyov 33:28)G-d in His kindness created the concept of gilgulim (reincarnations) in order that no soul should be expelled from the World-to-Come. (Ramban, Rabbeinu Bachaya)
Yes, Elihu told Iyov, you are righteous in THIS life. However, what about in your previous lives, all of which make up the totality of your being. Is it not possible that you are rectifying today something that was wrong from the past, before you were even born into this reincarnation? Indeed, explains the Arizal, the concept of "the reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward for a sin is a sin" actually spans lifetimes (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 38).
Thus, if we learn anything at all from the story of Iyov, it is what this parshah tries to make perfectly clear. We humans, and especially the Jewish people, are part of an ongoing, momentary dynamic process from which G-d does not rest for a moment, even when we rest. He is plugged into our lives, even when we are not. He is directing history, even if we don't pay attention to what He does.
However, if we want to be able to roll with the punches of history, that is, maintain our sanity and pass the tests of faith, we have to recall all of this. We have to know that the roots of today's events were planted back at the beginning of time. As G-d told Iyov, we may not be able to enter the movie from the beginning, but at least, if we're going to enter it so close to the end, the least we can do is play catch up somewhat on what already has happened.
Have a teshuva-inspired Shabbos,
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