Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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20 Kislev 5762 - December 5, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
What Will Be the End?

by L. Jungerman

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 power?

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 examples abound.

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, predictable developments.

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 tremendous riches?

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 development?

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 opposite.

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 developments.

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 effects.

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 conjure up.

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 Hashem."

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