18 Adar 5781 / Tuesday, March 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Ki Tisa
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Ask Your Questions!

Every second of suffering is decreed with a careful calculation. Every suffering contains hidden good within the evil of the difficulty.


I once visited a Jewish secular school in Argentina. The program called for me to deliver a talk on Judaism and afterwards take questions from the audience. The principal of the school asked me repeatedly if in fact it was permitted to ask questions. His manner indicated that he was belittling religion, as if to say that religious people do not allow questions to be asked, but rather demanded belief with unquestioning blind faith, without reason. In his mind, the reason secular Jews do not observe mitzvos is because they consider themselves wise people who do things only when there are reasons which they can understand. Since they have questions about religion which they cannot fathom, they therefore refuse to do things based on blind faith alone.  


I told the principal, “Of course it is permitted to ask questions. Please ask any questions you have. On the contrary, Hashem wants us to ask questions and know the reasons, as it is written (Divrei HaYammim 1- 28:9/I Chronicles) “know the G-d of your father and serve Him”, exhorting us to ‘know’ Hashem. He does not want us to remain with blind faith without knowing the reason. This is why on the holiday of Passover the Seder begins with various changes from the usual in order to provoke questions from the children and provide them with answers so they grow up knowing that there is an answer to every question. We speak about four types of children to demonstrate that are answers for each type of person, whether wise, or wicked, or simple, or even one unable to ask a question. We are obligated to teach and enlighten everyone. This all takes place at the very beginning of the Pesach festival, celebrating the commencement of our becoming the People of Hashem, to teach us that as People of Hashem we ask questions and receive answers.  


The Holy Torah is greater than the Earth and wider than the Sea (Job 11-9). Every question has many answers, and no individual knows everything. A simple doctor may lack an answer and must ask a professor. If the professor lacks an answer, he will ask someone more specialized who has spent many years to become an expert in the particular field of study. Everyone needs to ask someone more learned than he, or to find answers in books, as there is no question that has no answer. When we ask a medical question from a doctor, we first do what he tells us to do even before we have asked and understood his reasons. Hashem wants us to serve Him with Emunah/Faith even before we know the reasons, and subsequently when one studies diligently, one will ultimately find reasons.  


Then, the above mentioned principal asked the common question that secular Jews often ask “Where was G-d during the Holocaust if He is the guardian of Israel?  


I answered him with a parable; a father had his first and only son born when the father was advanced in years. He had incredible love for his only son. The father warned the little boy to avoid eating certain foods which would be life-threatening for him. However, the son did not heed his father’s instructions and would eat those very foods his father warned him against. The boy became deathly ill and the doctor declared that the boy must have critical surgery or else he would die! Obviously, the father insisted on the operation taking place. The son, not realizing his perilous state, cried and screamed that the father must hate him if he will let a doctor cut him up. He carried on about the ‘bad’ and ‘vicious’ father he had. It was not pleasant hearing his son call him disparaging names, but this did not prevent the father from ordering the surgery to save his son’s life. The son was obviously ignorant of the life-saving benefit of the surgery, and the father had to do everything to save his life nonetheless.  


Similarly, and even all the more so, the Creator is our merciful Father, Whose mercy and love are Infinite. He cautioned us to fulfill the commandments, as this is the purpose of the creation of man. He warned us that terrible punishment would result if we ignored His instructions. This is because Hashem must purify the body of sin, and humble the depraved instincts of human beings, to enable the soul to benefit eternal life. The primary part of the human is the soul, which is G-dly and is always attached to Hashem above. The soul lives both in this world and in the World to Come, as opposed to the body which is merely a garment for the soul in this world. Sometimes, even someone who has never committed a sin can receive suffering from Hashem, the faithful physician, to rectify some spiritual damage which was done to the soul in a previous reincarnation, or for other reasons (as explained in the holy book Be’er Mayim Chaim in Parshas Chukat).  


The power of the faith that everything is from Heaven gave refugees from the Holocaust the encouragement they needed to be steadfast and remain on the path of Hashem. Through faith, they were able to rejoice in the most difficult situations. Even after the murders of their relatives they knew that Hashem is the One who causes death and revives life, and that had He chosen to do so He would have allowed them to remain alive, and what He did was also for the good.  


During the Holocaust, the great Tzaddik Rebbe Aharon of Belz, ztvk"l was informed that his eldest son Rabbi Moshe HY”D was grabbed by some Nazis and burned alive in a bonfire. Upon hearing the tragic news the Rebbe said “Baruch Hashem! Hashem deemed me worthy to also bring a sacrifice to Him!” I also heard that someone was describing to the Rebbe how he had suffered in the Holocaust, and then asked the Rebbe, “Didn’t the Rebbe also suffer?” The Rebbe zt”l grabbed the man and said: “Take back your words! I never suffered!”  


We saw this in Egypt when Moshe Rabbenu sought to understand the reason for the increased difficulty of the slavery. He therefore asked Hashem, “Why have You done evil to this people? Why have You sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, evil has befallen this people!” Hashem answered, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a mighty hand will he send them out, and with a mighty hand will he expel them from his land”. This means that Pharaoh will not merely give permission for the people to leave, but rather, by Divine Providence, cause will arise that they will be forced out immediately, in order that there should not be even one second more of slavery, as Hashem promised Avraham Avinu during the Bris Bei n  HaBesarim, that every second of pain and suffering is decreed from Heaven with a careful calculation. For this reason, Hashem told Moshe of the hidden good within the evil of the difficulty of the slavery, which made it possible for the Israelites to leave Egypt 190 years early, before the set time of 400 years.  


Therefore, for this reason, Hashem continued and said “I appeared to Avraham, and to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov, by the Name Kel-Shakkai, but My Name Hashem I did not reveal to them,” which comes to teach us that each of the 3 fathers of Judaism underwent tremendous tests when they saw the Name “Kel,” which is a hint to the  Middat  HaDin  (Attribute of Strict Justice), and they did not see the concept of the Name “Hashem,” which hints to the Middat HaRachamim (Attribute of Divine Mercy). Nevertheless, they still remained strong and stood up against the temptations, knowing that everything was ultimately for the good, and through this they were worthy to spiritual and material outpouring of blessings.  


It is known that the history of our Avot is a sign for us, that we should follow this and, so too, be blessed. 

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