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HARDSHIPS – OURS OR SOMEONE ELSE’S?

By: Rabbi David Ashear

It is told that the students of the Baal Shem Tov once asked their Rabbi, “You’ve always taught us that every negative character trait canbe used in a positive, constructive way. Jealousy can
be used to bring us closer to Hashem if we envy those who are more spiritually accomplished than us. Even desire can be used for the right reasons. But what about kerifah (heresy)?
How can this be used for a positive purpose?’

The Baal Shem Tov answered that kerifah – the denial of Hashem –
must be used in situations where one’s fellow is suffering and going through a difficult time. The person enduring hardship must try to have complete faith in Hashem, but the other people in his life should approach the situation with a tinge of kerifah. They should not tell him, “Don’t worry, just have faith in Hashem; He loves you and he’ll make sure everything turns out fine.” While this is certainly true, this should not be our response to a person facing hardship. Instead, we need to share in his pain and try to help him in any way we can. If our friend lost his job and is worried how he will provide for his family, we should not tell him, “Don’t worry, Hashem will take care of it.” Instead, we should think of how we can help provide him with the money he needs until he finds a new job, and which connections we have that might help him find new employment.

Afterward, once a person sees that we are genuinely concerned and trying to help, then we can offer words of encouragement and try strengthening his emunah by reminding him that Hashem can solve every problem and that He loves and cares for all of us. But first we must offer assistance and sensitivity.

The Steipler Gaon once said that after having untold numbers of people approach him over the course of many years for help with their problems, he realized that no matter what a person’s problem is, it fills the entire heart and causes overwhelming pain. He added that the person who is suffering should try to strengthen his emunah, but everyone else needs to focus their attention on offering assistance in any way they can.

When we learn about emunah and bitachon, it’s for ourselves, reinforcing in our minds the awareness of how everything that happens is caused directly by Hashem Who always wants only the very best for us. A person’s remark cannot break a shidduch; a doctor’s mistake cannot hurt a patient; and a competitor cannot take away someone’s parnassah. The pasuk in Eichah (3:37) states, Who could possibly cause something to happen if Hashem did not first decree that it should happen? Hashem is behind everything that takes place, he loves us, and wants us to trust Him even when we do not understand why things happen. But we must train ourselves ahead of time, before hardship sets in. It is very difficult to teach people to have emunah while they’re experiencing hardship. In a period of pain and anxiety, people are not receptive to this message. But if we keep reminding ourselves of how everything is caused by Hashem Who wants only the best for us, we are preparing ourselves to be able to remain calm and relaxed in any situation.

Imagine that Hashem comes to a person one morning and says to him, “I know you have a very important business meeting today, with a lot at stake. But I am in charge of your parnassah, I love you very much and I will always take care of you, and today, for reasons that you cannot know, I am causing you to have a flat tire on the way to work. Trust me, this is the very best thing for you.” When that person has a flat tire on his way to work, he will not get agitated at all, because he was prepared ahead of time and realizes that this was caused by Hashem and it must therefore be the best thing to happen. We have to try to feel that way in every situation in life, realizing that everything is from Hashem and not get depressed or anxious. Hashem is in full control of our lives and the more we live with this recognition, the happier we will be.

Adapted from “Living Emunah,” by Rabbi David Ashear,
with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.