"And she said: With great wrestling have I wrestled with my
sister, and I have prevailed."
The Malbim uses this verse to whisk us right into the great
gates of faith. He comments: "Naftulei (wrestling) is
derived from the word tzomid posil, a covering bound
upon [a vessel], that is, a covering and seal. Rachel wished
to say that the matters between her sister and herself, that
is, why she has brought forth children and not I, are bound
up with Hashem. It is a hidden matter which a mortal cannot
understand. But I, she said, prevailed -- I suffered my lot
with joy for [I know that] Hashem is righteous and His
judgments are true and straight."
When times are difficult and one suffers, when one's eyes
are lifted to Hashem for succor, then aside from what we are
lacking at that time, we are tormented by the question:
Why? Why me? Why does the next person have it good while
I must suffer so bitterly? Am I any the less worthy?
This soul-searching is tortuous. Why are others able to
marry off their children with ease? Why are most normal
couples blessed with children? Without mental anguish? And
why are others blessed with good health, prosperity and so
It is not a begrudging of what others have, but agonizing
pain over what we lack and the pain we must undergo before
we see things go well, or enjoy nachas. We see others
rejoice and cannot help feeling that twinge: May they be
truly be blessed in their lot, Hashem, but how happy we
would be to share those same blessings.
These are terrible thoughts that can only be arrested by the
emotional release of tears gathering in the corner of one's
Here we are presented with a picture of how Rochel Imeinu
dealt with this terrible suffering. She was the mainstay of
Yaakov Ovinu's household. It all revolved around her and was
really established for her sake, even though her father's
treachery changed things and caused others to enter the
household as partners. Righteous and humble as she was, not
only did she not take steps to prevent it, but she even
promoted it with her own doing. She sacrificed her entire
future for her sister to prevent her being shamed.
And after all this -- she was the one from whom children
were withheld. Even the maidservants bore children; only she
remained barren, subordinate.
Who would gather up her shame and rescue her from ignominy?
She had no portion of the blessing whatsoever. How could she
have remained sane in the face of this mental anguish? What
tremendous pain she must have experienced!
Rochel mourns for children. Give me sons, else I shall die.
And yet, she has no questions. Naftulei Elokim --
this is beyond me, a hidden matter. I cannot presume to
understand why my sister has borne children and not I. This,
only Hashem knows and it is not for me to question.
Aside from the mission a person has in this world, he also
serves as Hashem's ax, so to speak, a tool or medium through
which Hashem carries out His will and His master design in
this world. Hashem provides each person with his personal
needs, not as an end but as a means for his carrying out a
particular purpose in this world. These are known to Him
Who knows? Perhaps I am put in this world to suffer in
silence, with acceptance? Perhaps this is my only particular
test and challenge in life? Perhaps by doing so, I will be a
shining example of faith and acceptance to others, a source
of Kiddush Hashem?
We don't know the intricate reasons behind reality in this
world. This is known only to Hashem, before Whom all is
revealed and Who reviews the generations of the world in one
blinking. We have no inkling.
Rochel suffered, and when Naftoli was born through her
intercession, in her name, she was able to sum up her period
of suffering as it was beginning to wane, and she said: I
prevailed. I withstood the test! I suffered this stage but
accepted it with joy, for I know that Hashem is righteous
and His judgments are true!
The Ramchal explains that sometimes suffering comes upon a
person to rouse him to repent, to atone for his sins.
Sometimes, however, Hashem visits suffering upon a person
for the benefit of the world, so that he will atone for
others. Who are we to fathom which is which? Or why it must
be so? How difficult it must be for a person, in the throes
of his suffering, when he does not know why he is being
afflicted: whether to improve him, or to provide atonement
for sins, or because this is Hashem's divine plan for
reasons which he cannot understand in this world. It is this
measure of uncertainty which greatly augments and compounds
a person's suffering.
In Daas Tvunos he writes (p. 168-170) that there are
some people who are fated to receive bounty in great
measure, since this is part of the divine design of the
world. Others are fated for lesser good in this world. And
these separate destinies have nothing to do with their
worth, goodness, effort.
This is how Hashem saw fit to apportion lots in this world.
This lot is good for one, the other lot will benefit the
other person, and each will be playing his or her particular
role in life in their respective circumstances.
What mortal can presume to understand this intricate
apportionment? Sometimes, destiny is at play, sometimes
merit and reward. Man cannot guess or reason which is which
and must remain frustrated whenever he attempts to
understand these unfathomable workings of Hashem.
But, concludes Ramchal, whoever is true to Hashem must
establish a strong pillar of faith within himself; he must
know that whatever Hashem does, no matter how or what, it is
surely true and just. There is no injustice or illogic; it
is just we who fall so short of understanding. Not like the
wicked who question Hashem's ways.
A person must stand on guard to persevere in serving Hashem
unquestioningly, wholesomely, with pure trust. He must
accept everything Hashem metes out to him with equanimity,
the bad along with the good. Only then can he be called
tomim, pure, perfect, innocent, unquestioning,
"I have wrestled the wrestling of Hashem -- which are hidden
- - and have prevailed."