Saturday, May 25, 2024

There is a G-d

There are times when the most obvious – such as the title of this piece – seems to need saying. Rav Dovid Orlofsky, renowned for his decades of dedicated kiruv work, gives an example from that field. The statistics for intermarriage and the staggering number of Jews completely assimilated or disconnected from their Jewishness are frightening. “If we don't do something – something drastic, effective and on a massive scale – what will become of us?” people ask. Left to their own devices, the mass majority of the Jewish people seems slated to simply…disappear.

Can we not tremble at the thought? Can we sit idly and continue with our lives as if a wild conflagration is not burning out of control in our very midst? Don’t we need to do something?


These fears are, sadly, very true and quite appropriate. There is no question that it is people who care who take the situation to heart. At times, though, these same thoughts can lead to acts of desperation. After all, the famous parable goes, when a fire is burning, one does not take pains to acquire clean water to throw on the flames. Any water will do, muddy or contaminated, so long as we do something — anything — to try and douse the flames.


This, points out Rav Orlofsky, can lead to doing things or embracing behaviors or actions not suitable under Torah standards. Yet, we bend the rules, and we find leniencies or create leniencies, with the thought that, after all, what we are doing is for the greater good, for the ultimate triumph of Torah. Surely, the well-meaning thinking goes, a little abandonment of our standards is okay when, after all, we are doing it to benefit those beliefs in the long run.


Such thinking is completely logical if not for the fact that it overlooks one fact: There is a G-d. Not only is there a G-d, but He is in charge and He is actually completely capable of taking care of His world. In fact, we can’t take care of His world, try as we might. Allour actions are for naught if He does not bring about the result we intended.


Doing something frowned upon by our Creator while thinking that we are doing it for Him is like telling Him that we don’t believe He could bring about the same result without our “help.” That’s ridiculous, and of course we know it. We simply forget, at times, in our sincere pain over the issues at hand.


If everything can be completely taken care of by Hashem — and it can — why do we need to do anything? Why not sit back and let Hashem take care of things? Should we just abandon those who need assistance, support, healing or a spiritual awareness to their own devices and not get involved at all? Chas veshalom. We must do everything we can to assist anyone who we can possibly help, so long as what we are doing is blessed with Heavenly approval and will bring nachas ruach to Hashem. At the same time, we recognize that we are acting simply because it is our way of showing Hashem what our true desires are. The ultimate assistance will come from Him — and only from Him.


This is not an easy concept to internalize, because our human senses do not — cannot — see this. To us, it seems as if it is the things we do that effect change. To help us better understand it, then, we can look at the relationship between the Aron, the Holy Ark, and those whose job it was to carry it.


In Parshas Terumah (25:10-11), we read of the construction of the Aron Hakodesh, the Holy Ark of the Covenant. The Torah tells us to fashion the Aron out of wood, but to coat it with pure gold. The Daas Zekeinim (ibid.) wonders why the Aron, such a central vessel and perhaps the holiest ever known to man, was not designed entirely out of gold. Especially in keeping with the rest of the ambiance of the Mishkan and its vessels, would a pure gold Aron not have been more appropriate?


Had the Aron been made out of pure gold, explains the Daas Zekeinim, it would have been far heavier than it was when constructed of wood and simply coated in gold. Since the Levi’im had to carry the Aron when it was transported (rather than placing it in a wagon), designing the Aron to be more lightweight was thus an important consideration here.


The Daas Zekeinim himself is troubled, though, by this explanation. The Gemara (Sotah 35a), in explaining a posuk in Yehoshua (4:11) which describes how the kohanim carried the Aron across the Jordan River, tells us, “Nosoh Aron es nosav v’ovar. The Aron carried (lifted) those who were carrying it and they crossed.” In other words, those who had been (until then) carrying the Aron now held on while the Aron lifted them and flew them across.


If the Aron was capable of flying, asks the Daas Zekeinim, and it actually carried those who “carried” it, why, then, would it need to be made lightweight?


The Daas Zekeinim (as well as the Chizkuni and the Bechor Shor) answers that the Aron flew during the crossing of the Yardeinlefi sha’ah,” only at that time. The Aron did not normally fly, and thus it needed to be made lightweight to make it more practical to be carried. While crossing the Jordan, though, it did fly and even carried the men who held onto it.


The Daas Zekeinim is still troubled, however, by this explanation. The above-referenced Gemara goes on to explain that Uza was punished by Hashem for attempting to catch the Aron and prevent it from falling to the ground when it was being transported by wagon in later years during the days of Dovid Hamelech. The posuk tells us (Shmuel II 2:6), “Vayochez bo,” and he grabbed onto it, “ki shomtu habokor,” because the oxen caused it to slip.


The Gemara tells us that Hashem punished Uza severely for this seemingly righteous act, because he should have made a simple deduction that would have made his action completely unnecessary. “The Aron had the ability to carry those who carried it,” said Hashem. “Do you think it would have been unable to carry itself?”


We thus see that Uza’s action was in fact an affront to Hashem, rather than a great deed. It’s great to want to do good deeds, but when we begin thinking that we need to “assist” Hashem in what He can clearly take care of on His own, we are in fact almost ridiculing Hashem. For that, Uza was punished in so severe a manner.


This, asks theDaas Zekeinim, would seem to contradict the explanation given for the need to construct the Aron in a lightweight fashion, i.e., that it flew when crossing the Jordan only “lefi sha’ah,” at that one time. If the Aron flying was only a one-time occurrence, why should Uza have thought it would fly again this time? If the Aron always flew, why would it need to be lightweight?


The Daas Zekeinim does not answer this question, yet the Chizkuni and the Bechor Shor also maintain that the Jordan crossing was only “lefi sha’ah” and don’t seemed bothered by the seeming contradiction with Uza’s punishment.


Rav Orlofsky brings this entire give-and-take and offers a wonderful explanation. True, the Aron did not normally fly or carry its carriers. Normally, it would be carried, thus necessitating its lightweight construction. However, when a time of necessity arose, such as at the Jordan crossing, Hashem showed us that the Aron was indeed wholly capable of not only taking care of itself by flying, but it could even carry those who were “carrying” it. Uza should have known that while the Aron was normally carried, we should never, chas veshalom, think that Hashem “needs” us to carry it. Would the need ever again arise, Hashem could surely take care of the Aron on His own, as He had done in the past.


Why, then, was the Aron made of lightweight materials so that we could carry it in the first place, if Hashem could just as easily had it carry itself?


Hashem was giving us the zechus, the merit, explains Rav Orlofsky, to carry the Aron and actually feel its weight on our shoulders. We were being given an opportunity to partner with Hashem so as to come close to Him and have a relationship with Him. We must never make the mistake of thinking, though, that if it ever gets dropped, Hashem cannot take care of it without any of our “assistance” at all. This should have been clear to Uza as it should be clear to each of us.


This, explains Rav Orlofsky, is why he sometimes finds himself in the improbable position of reminding people in the field of spreading an awareness of Hashem’s Presence that there is a G-d. Yes, we are given the merit to be partners in Hashem’s great work. Let us never think, though, that if we don’t do this or that, bend a rule here, look away there, or act in a way that Hashem does not desire of us, the results will be catastrophic, regardless of how right we seem to be statistically or factually. There is a G-d, and He can run His world perfectly well without any of our “help,” thank you very much.


Throughout the years, Klal Yisroel has faced many terrible and troubling situations. Statistically, logically and scientifically, we shouldn’t even be here discussing any of this. Our nation and our fidelity to Torah seemed headed for sure extinction more than once in the past. It is difficult, in the face of such a dire outlook and especially when Hashem demands of us that we do our part as if we have a hand in the outcome, to remember that, in fact, we are merely being granted the merit to be His partner, but the outcome is not actually dependent in any way on our actions. Ultimately, He will always see to our needs, regardless of how impossible the situation may seem in our eyes.


When the Russian Czar sought to force the Volozhin Yeshiva to include secular studies in its curriculum, the roshei yeshiva famously closed the yeshiva rather than compromise the integrity of the Torah. When asked what would be with Torah study — because, logically, without the yeshiva there would be no Torah study and the Torah would be forgotten, chas veshalom — the Bais Halevi is said to have responded that it is Hashem Who takes care of His Torah, not us. We merely do our part, and if there is no suitable part for us to carry out, then we simply leave it in His Hands.


This lesson has applications all the time in countless areas of life. One can’t help thinking how appropriately its lesson applies as well to the much ballyhooed “shidduch crisis.”


Hakadosh Boruch Hu is mezaveig zivugim. All believing Jews know this. We do not decide who will get married or when they will get married. He does. We have been given the unprecedented and gratifying gift to “partner” with Hashem, as it were, in this meritorious task which affects generations.


As long as we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, the direst of statistics mean nothing to us. It is Hashem Who will decide how things work out, impossible as this might seem to us humans. If a situation cries out for Heavenly assistance — if the “Aron” seems to be slipping — then we can look to Him for help, we can pray and try to rack up as many merits as possible. To think that He “needs” us to do something less than ideal in order to “help” Him is a notion so perverted and is exactly the terrible mistake made by Uza.


Any perfectly ideal hishtadlus that we can perform, in any capability, is of course incumbent upon us to carry out. However, to go in even the tiniest way against the Will of Hashem with the reasoning that otherwise “the world will come to an end,” “we’ve got to save the whales,” or “ten percent of girls will remain unmarried” is the height of perverted thinking. If a boy will learn Torah better for another few years if he doesn’t even begin thinking about shidduchim, then to give up that learning in order to “help” Hashem manage “The Crisis” is akin to telling Hashem, “Your way just isn’t working. We’re going to have to do this our way,” chas veshalom.


We are in no way discussing when a boy should actually begin the parsha of shidduchim. The Chazon Ish zt”l held it should be at a younger age, while virtually the rest of the roshei yeshivos — both in Eretz Yisroeland in the United States — held that a boy who is learning well should extend the learning before entering shidduchim. Each family and individual should follow their daas Torah, and individual situations may vary as well. Some boys do not feel their proper sippuk, fulfillment, in their learning, and their moreh derech may advise them to enter shidduchim earlier.


All that is beside the point. The point is that to enter shidduchim before the specific time that any particular boy’s daas Torah feels he should get involved, with the reason being that “what will otherwise be with our girls,” is like trying to tell Hashem that we’re going to have to do this “our” way, since “His” way is going to mess up badly, afroh lepumei.


When we take away the hype and false advertising, we see that this is all the various kol koreis we have seen have been saying, namely that when a boy is ready, he should happily enter the parsha of shidduchim. To use those letters to try and get people to leave their learning a bit earlier is no less a sin than the secular movement in Eretz Yisroelattempting to pull boys out of yeshivos to serve in the army, which is what they believe is important. We do not abandon Torah in order to “help” Hashem run His world.


Above all, the hysteria accompanying the “crisis” is surely unwarranted. The onlyway we can affect anybody’s chances of finding a shidduch is through spiritual means. Physical hishtadlus is nothing more than an opportunity allowed to us to take part in what Hashem is actually accomplishing all on His own. He does not need us to do anything in the physical realm to alleviate a hardship. He allows us to do so. When we have nothing good to do, it’s time to calmly leave go and remember that all along He was really doing it all on His own in any case.



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