Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wake Up Calls

A dear reader of mine recently addressed the tragedies that have taken place over the past 2 weeks or so. The murder of the Fogel family, the tsunami in Japan, conflict in Egypt & Libya, etc.
As per yesterday, the bombing in Jerusalem has, unfortunately, been added to that list.

I (hope) many are wondering - what's going on? Why is this happening? What is the purpose that HaShem is making these events happen?
Afterall, nothing is by chance, and there's Hashgacha Pratit (Divine Providence) with EVERYTHING in the world - from "minor things" like plants growing to major world events and politics.
(See somewhat related post here)

(Just a preface to what I'm about to share: the word "olam" (world) has the shoresh of Ayin.Lamed.Mem. - which means "hidden". The essence of this world is that there're matters that are hidden to us. That means that we never know all of the facts, and we're merely viewing a few seconds out of the 5 hour movie. Our perception is blurred, and we're missing a lot of the facts -- which will remain hidden until HaShem reveals them to us in Olam Haba. So when we delve into the meaning behind these tragedies, we can never know the full story. We can suggest possibilities and try our best to perceive the limited version. We have yet to fully understand G-d's ways.)

My friend shared the following powerful mashal with me:

there was a man whose only son was gravely ill. He rushed his dear son to the hospital, and the doctors operated on the son and tried their best. The father was crying, panicking, and praying. He would give anything to see his son live and be healthy.

The doctors could only find one solution to the son's illness. A nearly unheard of solution, but nonetheless, it was a cure! So, one doctor approached the worried father and said "sir, your son is going to live...but under one condition. It's a very difficult condition, but are you willing to do it?"

"Of course! Anything!" was the anxious response.

The doctor instructed "your son can not sleep at all this whole week. If he falls asleep, it's a sure thing that he will die. After a week, bring him in for a check up, but until then, you must do everything in your power to make sure he doesn't fall asleep - or else, unfortunately, he will pass away."

The father was determined to do everything in his might to take care of his beloved son and make sure he lives. He took his son home and purposely didn't let him change into pjamas. He gave him sweets and caffeine in order to keep him awake. Eventually, in the AM hours, his son got very sleepy. The son went to bed, and the father yelled "No! Son, you can't sleep! You might die if you sleep. Please, I love you. I can't lose you. It's very important that you do not sleep."
The child was startled by the news, and he tried his best to stay awake.

But his body wasn't responding. He had a tremendous urge to sleep. His body felt weak, and he couldn't keep his eyes open. He snuck into bed and began to shut his eyes and fall asleep. His father noticed, and he followed him and took off his blanket. The son was cold. "Dad, you're so mean! Stop! Give me back my blanket. Let me sleep! I'm so tired."

At this point, he was too tired to understand what was going on - his body was tired. He wanted to sleep!

After a while without the blanket, the son got comfortable and got used to laying down without a blanket - and was falling asleep. The father yelled "no!" and took away the pillow.

The son began crying. "Why are you being so mean, Dad? Let me sleep! I don't care. Please, give me back my pillow! I just want to sleep."

It hurt the father so much to see his son in pain, but he didn't want to lose his son.

Eventually, the son became comfortable because he got used to laying down without a pillow, and he began falling asleep. The father quickly picked up his son and put him on the cold floor. Again, his son began crying and screaming "Dad, you're so mean! Why are you doing this to me? I said I don't care what happens if I sleep. I just want to sleep!"

The father didn't know what to do. Didn't his son realize how comfort is not the main priority at the moment?

The father began crying and realized that he can't hurt his son. He loves his son too much - he can't hurt him, but he also can't let him sleep. So, he decided to hire professionals to keep his son awake. The professionals came, but they weren't as nice and caring as the father. They spilled cold water on the son, they hit him, they beat him - anything to make sure he stayed awake, so that he wouldn't die.

The son continously cried, yelled, and felt tortured. Could life get any worse?

In the end, the son didn't fall asleep for a few days, and he was cured! He then understood how all of the pain and difficulty of being abused and forced to stay awake is what kept him alive.

Not quite a story you hear every day, right?

The nishmal is that HaShem is our Father. Chazal teach us that originally, G-d wanted to give the neshamot instant Gan Eden, but the neshamot complained that they don't want a freebie. They want to earn the reward. So, HaShem puts us in this world and tells our neshamot to "keep the mitzvot, follow My Torah, love your fellow Jews..."

But our neshamot come into this world and start getting comfortable. We get used to our lifestyle. We see that we don't get struck by lightning when we commit a wrong deed. We see that life goes on and no major tragedy occurs, and therefore, we continue following in our own ways. We close our eyes.

HaShem, like the father in the story, knows that we can't become too comfortable or else we'll "fall asleep" (sin). If we fall asleep, we can, chas v'shalom die. (If we sin our whole lives -- we miss out on olam haba! We won't get our reward.) We can't get olam haba if we sin our whole lives! So, He sends us wake up calls - but gently. Just like the father wasn't abusing the son, rather he was gently taking away his blanket and pillow. But nothing major. So HaShem makes tragedies happen in Japan or Afgahnistan - far away from the Jews. As a wake up call. (I've heard in a shiur, perhaps the Rabbi quoted a Gemara -- I don't remember -- that whenever a tragedy occurs in the world, it's a wake up call for the Jews to do teshuva. The tragedy was really intended for us, but HaShem has mercy on us.)

So, the wake up call works for a while. But fades. We get comfortable without the pillow and blanket. We continue sinning.

So HaShem says "'re My children...even though it's for your benefit, it's too difficult for Me to hurt you." So He hires "professionals." The Satan gets involved and sends our enemies...the Arabs, or whoever else. And they send us direct wake up calls. They come too close for comfort.

We think these events are so horrible - and yes, they are. They're painful - but ultimately, everything is for our benefit. To keep us AWAKE and not lose focus and get too comfortable doing averot. Adversity shakes us. It reminds us that we're not here forever. This world is transient.

One might find the transient concept to be depressing, but it's not. On the contrary! It's a reassuring thought. It's positive reinforcement: we have the potential to change. To grow. To do more mitzvot. To take on at least one new good deed - be it shmirat halashon, studying more Torah, standing up for our parents at least once a day as part of kibud Av v'Em, greeting people with a smile, giving maaser/tzdaka, saying kriyat shema before going to sleep, etc. Anything that will help us grow closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu! He wants a relationship with us, and He wants us to have a relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters.

These holy Jews who were murdered simply because they're Jewish have done a Kiddush HaShem and are instantly in Gan Eden right now. I have no doubt about that. So we're not worried for them -- their neshamot are doing well. But we need to worry about our own neshamot...because we're still here, and we need to make our time productive...while we still can.
B"H, not one Jew was not killed. Most were not severely injured. However, some were. And it is our responsibility to daven for them to have a speedy recovery. "Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh L'Zeh"
Now's our opportunity to show HaShem how much we care.
The names of the injured victims:
Leah Bracha bas Shoshana Basya
Sara Nechama bas Rus Malka
Odelia Neshama bas Michal
Shilo ben Zahava Ofra
Daniel Yehuda ben Rochel Nurit
Elchonon Ovadia ben Eilona
Yisroel ben Dina
Nosson Daniel ben Shulamis
Shaindel bat Raizel

B"H may we all have clarity to always see the right path, follow that path, and stay on the right path!


  1. as much as this is a popular way of explaining why bad things happen to us, i dont believe this is the jewish way or approach to suffering. i wrote about this recently without drawing a direct analogy to what is going on, i left that for the reader.
    we forget that G-d doesn't need us to explain for him or for us to understand him. G-d doesn't want us to try to explain to the sufferer why he is suffering precisely because it does not ease their suffering! He wants us to react, to try to help when the situation calls for it and try to change ourselves, daven, etc, when the situation warrants that.

    Specifically when a father has to cause his child to suffer he has to suspend his mercy, his warm feelings during the time which he is trying to heal him. G-d doesn't do that for us. He never suspends his mercy for us, nor any other attribute which we ascribe to G-d.

  2. My response:

  3. Harry - I disagree. I think it's the obligation of each and every Jew to seek G-d and not let events pass by without reflection. Chazal offer explanations for events (like why the Beit HaMikdash got destroyed, why there are poor people in the world, etc.) & they even teach us that one should even be worried if nothing inconvenient occurs to him within a 40 day period.

    If our relationship with G-d is compared to a marriage - then shouldn't a husband and wife understand each other? Shouldn't they attempt to, anyway?
    Now, clearly, we are limited in our understanding G-d's ways. But I think we can at least attempt to touch the surface.

    "G-d doesn't do that for us. He never suspends his mercy for us"
    That's an excellent point. You're right.

    Azriel Tzvi - I'll respond on your post.

  4. I was not saying that we should not reflect, I am saying that we should REFLECT, but not try to EXPLAIN why it happened. Even Chazal when explaining why the B"M was destroyed were only able to figure it out using ruach hakodesh. very few if any people nowadays have it. the motivation to explain g-d could distract us from the individual lesson that we are supposed to learn. As the saying goes "if i could understand G-d, I would be him"

    I think it is important to recognize that the hashgacha pratis that is involved when someone hears about the news. The person who sees a tragedy with his own eyes, is not the same as the one who saw it on TV, nor the one who heard it on the radio, nor the one who heard it 4th hand in the break-room. The reaction that G-d wants is very different for each individual, hence my assertion that it is important to self-reflect on your own. When you hear about a tragedy it is important to recognize your own reaction, its impact on you, and also what you should change about yourself.
    After the earthquake/tsunami/meltdown in Japan, I heard people say its because of the bochurim in jail there. That is the wrong response and offers nothing to the people suffering.

  5. Harry - I understand what you're saying. You don't like when people give reasons - such as the holocaust occurred because of the rate of assimilation and intermarriage, the floor at the wedding hall that collapsed in Israel because the wedding took place during the 3 weeks of mourning, etc.

    I hear that. I understand. I think that usually when people give reasons - they don't say that it's THE reason...just a possibility.
    But yes, overall, we should let HaShem do the cheshbonot and just say "what can I do to help? How can I be better?"
    (Essentially, that is what my post was about.)

  6. Woah. This is a heavy one.

    This helps for some things but it is not always the case. Of course when we hear about a tragedy we should use it as a wake up call to change but there are some things that happen that are beyond our comprehension and we will never understand until the end of time.

    Hashem is too great for us to fully comprehend but this definitely helps explain it somewhat.