18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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HomeFoundations of JudaismJewish OutlookI Don't Understand a Thing!
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I Don't Understand a Thing!    

I Don't Understand a Thing!

In the course of a person's life, one encounters many situations that seem unfair. The reason is because we mortals can't possibly see the whole picture…


The Torah commands that a person who accidentally killed someone must exile himself to one of the shelter cities, and says: "But for one who has not lain in ambush, and G-d caused his hand to do so, I shall provide you a place for which he shall flee" (Exodus 21:13).


Rashi explains that the words "one who has not lain in ambush" means that he did not commit premeditated murder. He didn't stalk the victim and he had no intention of doing him any harm. In other words, it was an "accident"…


But, wait a second – look what the Torah says: "and G-d caused his hand to do so." The Torah is revealing that there is no mistake here. Hashem put the guilty individual in a position where he would be the unfortunate one to kill somebody. Hashem orchestrated the "accident".


The Midrash adds: "Who are we talking about? One person killed someone unintentionally and somebody else murdered someone in a premeditated manner. In both cases, there were no witnesses." It turns out that neither received his just punishment, for the murderer should have been killed and the accidental killer should have been exiled. So, in this case, Hashem judges them. What does He do? Hashem brings them both to an inn. The murderer sits under a ladder. The accidental killer climbs the ladder and falls from it, crushing and killing the murderer. Other witnesses at the inn testify that this was accidental, so now, the accidental killer gets his just due of exile and the murderer gets his just due of a death sentence.


From the above example, we learn the extent of Divine Providence that underlies every occurrence, especially accidents, Heaven forbid. To the innocent onlooker, the man who sat under the ladder was an unfortunate victim. Even so, the person who fell on him and killed him had no intention of doing so. But in truth, everything is a product of precision Divine justice.


The Midrash also relates that Moses asked to understand Divine ways (see Exodus 33:13). Moses wanted to understand the inner mechanisms of Divine Providence. Hashem told him, "Come up to Me on the mountain" (Deuteronomy 10:1).


On his way up to the mountain, Moses saw a strange sight. A person bent down to drink from a spring, and as he did so, a wallet full of money fell out of his pocket without his knowing and he walked away. A second person came to drink from the spring and found the first person's wallet. The second person walked away and a third person came to the spring for a drink of water. While he was still drinking, the first person came back to the spring to search for his wallet but it wasn't there. The first person said to the third person, "Hey, you found my wallet!"


The third person said, "I didn't find a thing."


Enraged, the first person killed the third person.


Moses was amazed by what he saw; he said to Hashem, "Master of the World, explain Your ways to me. That whole incidence at the spring – why did the second person walk away scot-free with the wallet, yet the third person paid the bitter price? He found nothing, yet he got killed!"


Hashem answered, "Everything you saw is truth! The first person stole the wallet from the second person who found it; as such, the wallet returned to its rightful owner. The third person that got killed murdered the first person's father without the first person knowing who committed the crime. As such, the first person became the agent of Divine justice to avenge the death of his father."


The above examples from the Midrash are just a sampling of the exact Divine Providence that governs every event in the world. The Torah's phrase of, "and G-d caused his hand to do so," shows that there is nothing random or happenstance in the world. Divine Providence takes every tiny detail into account in every single happening in the universe, big or small.


In the course of a person's life, one encounters many situations that seem unjust and unfair. The reason is because we mortals can't possibly see the whole picture. This resembles a person who came late to the movies – it's already the second half of the movie and the viewer sees a man mercilessly beating a lady. He blurts out loud, "Villain! Leave the lady alone!"


The other viewers in the theater hush him up. "If you'd have seen the beginning of the movie, you'd have seen the unspeakable things she did to him…"


People are limited in perception – they only see a tiny portion of the entire picture. No one knows the past of every soul, who it was and what it did in previous lives. No one knows what each individual soul must rectify during its current go-around in the physical world. What's more, no one can possibly know the underlying reasons behind each person's personal condition or circumstance.


But, if a person had spiritual eyes that were capable of seeing, he or she would know that Hashem's accounting and individually tailor-made Divine Providence is not only just, but merciful as well; as such, they'd no longer question Hashem.

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