Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Nissan 5760 - May 3, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Special Child - Special Parent

by M. Steinberg

Following is an excerpt from Rabbi Yoel Schwartz's recently published book, "Special Child - Special Parent: The Special Child in Jewish Sources". The excerpt contains a continuation of a series of questions posed by a concerned parent.

Chapter Three

You Deserve It!

Q. Nonetheless, why me?

A. Because you deserve it. Yes, because you are so kind and compassionate, Hashem considered you capable of raising a special child. In His infinite mercy, He places special children in warm and loving homes where they will receive the best possible care. Yours is such a home.

Q. But it's so hard. Speech therapy, physical therapy, medical attention, constant care. It's a twenty-four hour job. I'm breaking. How can I cope?

A. "Hashem tests the righteous" (Tehillim 11:5). Just as a potter demonstrates the strength of his vessels by tapping the stronger ones, and not those which will break, so Hashem tests those people capable of withstanding difficulties - those who will be a source of inspiration for others. (See Bereishis Rabbah, 23:1.)

"Nasata leyire'echa ness lehisnoses - You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed" (Tehillim 60:6). Tests are the banners Hashem uses to display the high levels of "those who fear [Him]." (The Hebrew word for test is nisayon, a word phonetically related to ness - banner.) By testing such people, He is proclaiming: These are the finest examples of mankind.

Q. After a particularly grueling day, I lie in bed and wonder why people suffer. Yet moments later, I feel guilty. Are such thoughts wrong?

A. "Why do people suffer?" is not a new question. It is as ancient as man himself, and has been asked in every place and age. The entire book of Iyov is devoted to this question. But the answer which it provides, "Where were you when I founded the world? Say if you grasp understanding," (Iyov 38:4) actually seems like a non-answer, while Iyov's final conclusion, "I spoke, but I do not understand; the things are hidden from me, and I do not know" (ibid. 42:3) seems to suggest that there is no solution. While indeed there is no apparent solution to Iyov's question, this is becasue there are no human answers to Divine questions, and not because such a solution does not exist.

"And this is the way it should be. One should have difficulty undersanding Hashem, Blessed is He... It is inevitable that we be puzzled by Him, for if His conduct followed our rules of logic, we could assume that His mind is like ours" (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutei Moharan Tinyana, stanza 62).

"If even the simplest blade of grass is beyond our comprehension... how can we seek to understand [Hashem's control of the world]?" (the Admor of Piastchene, Esh Kodesh, p. 139).

"Don't make the mistake of imagining that His knowledge is like ours, or His intent... like ours. When one realizes this, it is easier to accept that which happens..." (Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim, part 3, ch. 23).

Despite our inability to understand Hashem's ways, Chazal still seek to bring them as close as possible to our perception, offering us a faint shadow of an explanation. Commenting on the verse, "The judgments of Hashem are true, together they are just," (Tehillim 19:10), the Chofetz Chayim explains: "Certain souls are required to return to his world in order to atone for past misdeeds... When such a soul realizes that it must be reincarnated, it pleads to return under conditions which will enable it to rectify its sins. One who was wealty, for example, begs to return as a pauper, so that he won't be faced with the very same obstacles which caused him to stumble in his past life. The Heavenly Prosecutor argues that if such a person doesn't return as wealthy, he won't be able to correct earlier sins. It is only after much pleading that his request to be born poor is finally granted. Thus, it is quite possible that the very person who complains about his bitter lot actually begged the Heavenly Court to place him in such a situation."

Q. Yet sometimes the feeling that I must prove myself, and pass all those tests with flying colors, overwhelms me. What advice can you give me?

A. The ultimate test is knowing how to relate to tests - how to put them into a proper perspective and raise them to a loftier level. By viewing a test and its accompanying hardships as a mission and a challenge, life becomes not a series of tests to be passed, but a golden opportunity for growth. "Braving such tests is the Torah challenge to parents of special children. If the challenge is met with inspiration and bitachon, then the parents and the family have carried out a unique and special mission entrusted to them by Hashem. The education of our children is not merely a mitzvah or a task imposed from Above. It is a mission of Hashem... a holy charge, a sacred duty" (from the Noveminsker Rebbe's address to a P'TACH convention).


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