We surely must continue to hope that things will change, that
the present situation, which seems almost rock bottom, will
change for the better. We must hope for the restoration of
honor and glory for the entire world when all of humanity
will be uplifted to a noble level, to a condition of unity
and peace, which is the most difficult of all.
The Midrash in this week's portion discusses the
verse, "And the butler did not remember Yosef, and he forgot
him." Who would have expected -- that Avrohom and Sorah would
give birth to a son in their extreme old age? That Yaakov
Ovinu, who crossed the Jordan with no more than his staff,
would flourish in numbers and wealth to such a degree? That
Yosef, who was sold into slavery, would become viceroy?
Who would have expected all these? That is the question.
Matnos Kehuna elaborates and asks: Who in his
realistic mind could conceive such a future for Avrohom and
Sorah, or for Yaakov such vast wealth? Who would have dared
to dream that Yosef would ever reach a position of such
The Midrash does not stop at these, but goes on to
enumerate other people and situations which boggle the
imagination in the same manner and evoke the selfsame
question of: Who would ever have speculated such
developments? That Ruth the convert would become the mother
of the royal dynasty? That Moshe who was cast into the Nile
would surpass any man in history in greatness by receiving
and transmitting the Torah from Sinai? And many other such
The lesson to be derived from all of these unforeseen
developments is expanded upon by HaRav Yitzchok Waldshein
zt'l, a fiery flame from the kiln of Novardok.
A person is forever curious to know what lies in the future.
Questions about what lies in store continually preoccupy him.
And since that is always a mystery, a person tries to second-
guess it according to the facts and circumstances in the
present which he projects into a logical, knowable future. He
takes cause and effect into account to arrive at probable,
The truth, however, is that the future lies solely in the
hands of Hashem. Beyond the normal playing out of cause and
effect, which is subject to innumerable other factors and
vicissitudes, man cannot begin to fathom with his intellect
what lies ahead.
Who could have predicted a son for Avrohom at the age of 100?
One could almost have definitely established that this was
impossible, not only improbable. Had anyone seen Yaakov,
stripped of all earthly possessions except for the staff in
his hand, his life having been providentially spared from the
hand of Elifaz, he would never have speculated that he would
emerge from the nefarious Lovon's home with great wealth!
Sincere, straightforward, a man of truth, going to lock horns
with the king of schemers and swindlers -- could Yaakov
possibly have come out as wholesome as he went in, and with
The same goes for Yosef, sold as a slave for life. What in
the world could catapult him to fame and power, from the
lowest rung of society to the highest in the land? What clue
in the present could have led one to presume any such
Similarly for Moshe, hidden in a flimsy basket of reeds on
the water's edge, seemingly doomed to death by Pharaoh's
decree: what chances did he have of mere survival, to say
nothing of reaching the pinnacle of all mankind, face-to-
face prophecy with Hashem?
Ruth the Moabite convert, a penniless widow bereft of all
status, not even recognized by her adopted people -- how in
the world could her situation change to make her become the
most prestigious mother of royalty, the founder of the
Davidic dynasty, the progenitor of Moshiach?
In all of these examples, the common denominator is the
absolute unpredictability of future developments from a
present set of circumstances. There was no background, no
indication, no foundation for what eventually happened, and
which was a catapult from one extreme to the very
All this comes to teach us that Divine Providence over the
individual does not conform to the general laws of cause and
effect. Developments do not proceed step by logical step
which one could foresee or imagine. Rather, it is a network
of spiritual causes that governs the future of each and every
person, and not natural laws or causes or logical
The Alter of Novardok used to tell about baalei mussar
of his generation who succeeded above and beyond their
natural powers. People who knew them were astounded to see
what they were able to accomplish. We also often see how
students who, superficially, seem weak and inconsequential
are also able to achieve great things that are unbelievable
in scope. What we must conclude is that normal expectations
do not apply to spiritual achievements. No one can guess how
far or how high one can go!
It behooves us to impose our imagination over our logic and
to understand that we cannot make any predictions or
assumptions for the future upon the basis of cause and effect
or probability according to a given situation. Spiritual
causes answer to different laws and produce different
There is a pertinent application to the present day
situation, as R' Waldshein notes:
We must also pray and hope that a harsh situation will change
for the better. No matter how low, how bitter things are,
there is nothing to stop them from rising to the very highest
of heights. The world is running headlong to decadence, but
it can be restored to the glory and grandeur of ancient
times, even if we cannot possibly see how. The
diversification, the disunity and the disharmony we see all
around us can once again be transformed to unity and single
purpose, which seems to be the most difficult situation to
Chazal continue to ask: Who can conceive that the dispersed
exiles will come together and be restored to glory and fame?
Who can conceive that the fallen succas Dovid, the
dynasty of Dovid and Moshiach, will be restored by Hashem?
But this is promised to us: "On that day, I will raise up the
fallen succah of Dovid." Who can conceive that the
world will one day unite and become one solid entity?
But it is written, "For then will I transform all of the
nations into a clear tongue for all to call in the name of