Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sometimes G-d answers with a "no"

Hat tip to Rav Y.G. Bechhoffer. Who found a response to the following post. The original post can be read in full following the link. The response is by an anonymous author who is obviously well versed not only in hashkofa but in reality

Original post.

The Great Miracle of the Volcano Shutdown

A universal crisis, millions of people stranded, billions of dollars lost, and one volcanic eruption in Iceland causes chaos across the European continent. Within all this tumult, one Jew merits a smile from the Creator of the World, as if G-d was whispering to him - My son, the whole world was not created except for you כל העולם לא נברא אלא בשבילי.

The story begins with a young Yeshiva student, an 18 year old Yerushalmi,who was mortally ill with fulminate hepatic failure. With little hope of receiving a liver transplant in Israel, Rav Firer sought to send the boy on an emergency flight to Brussels, the world center of liver transplants. The only problem however, is that Brussels under no circumstances transplants non-EU patients, in order to save the scanty supply of livers for Europeans. Nevertheless, it was decided to send him to Brussels despite this knowledge....
My response: [unknown author]

I have a real problem with these stories in general, and I guess this case really underscores why. Just imagine the other stories that are not being circulated on the internet. Young mother/child/groom/ whoever on waiting list, desperate for transplant, the right liver finally available and s/he finally on top of the list - but could not fly to Belgium due to the volcano and, r"l, passed away. I don't know what happened to whom regarding this liver, but neither do those circulating this story know whose heart could be breaking as they read it. Hashem's ways are indeed mysterious and above our logical comprehension systems. But let's not pretend that the hashgacha always works out for the apparent good of everyone affected.

I happen to think we in our generation, and especially from an educational standpoint our young people, are more in need of examples of tziduk hadin and moving forward in life despite disappointment, loss and suffering, than we are in need of further gushes of chicken soup for our already entitlement-ridden souls. Because this genre has become so ubiquitous, and we are encouraging people to identify (as if they could!) `hashgacha pratis' in their lives, I fear we are weakening rather than strengthening the kind of emuna needed to make it through the real lives most of us lead, the ones in which people die, illness hurts, and hopes are dashed, at least sometimes. I find these kinds of stories dangerous, not only because they promote magical thinking and reinforce theological beliefs of dubious basis in authoritative Jewish sources, but because they reinforce some sort of fantasy that we can ignore the gemara about kesheim shemevarchin al hatov etc. When young people raised on this intellectual diet of gruel actually encounter challenges in life, will they have the keilim, and the examples, to integrate them into their mindset and avodas Hashem? Will they conclude, consciously or unconsciously, that they are unworthy because miracles didn't happen for them? Will they feel cheated out of the hashgacha protis they have been guaranteed and end up angry at their religion r"l?

I don't know, I just feel sometimes we in the frum community live in a haze of wishful thinking we have allowed and sometimes even encouraged. I don't mean to be a downer but to say, let's recognize and fix our problems rather than distracting ourselves from them. For every heartwarming story circulated I'd like to see at least one story that calls us to action, and I mean action to take responsibility for our dysfunctionalities. If only the energy put into the campaign to save Shalom Rubashkin from being overly punished for his crimes could be equally put into a campaign to rid ourselves of corruption and fraud and teach the importance of transparency, integrity, and accountability.  I am seriously considering contacting the guy who started the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation and encouraging him to start a new prong of the movement aimed towards Emes and Yashrus.


  1. I am surprise you take Nava Klein the proprietor of Dreaming of Moshiach as credible source. If you read her posts during the years, she met Sarah imeinu, King David, Baal Shem tov and other interesting characters, She actually met the real messiah who incidentally looks like the late lubavitche rebbe.

    She promised tens of time before that the messiah would come in a particular day, she complain that the sitra-achra tries to kill her, you can go over her web site and see she is delusional and need help.

    Her 15 minutes of fame were when she told this story :

    In a town lived a woman that was married but did not cover her hair. The Rav of the town rebuked her a few times but she paid no heed, saying "I was given beautiful curly hair and unwilling to cover it".

    When she passed away, the Chevre Kaddishe placed her body in the ground but one of them accidently dropped his wallet inside, not noticing it. Inside the wallet was money and important papers.

    That evening, when he noticed his wallet was missing, he remembered that while bending down to bury the woman, the wallet fell inside the grave. He went to the Rav of the town, HaRav HaGaon Aryeh de-ve Ilai, zs'l, to receive permission to reopen the grave. The Rav answered that in this case he gives permission but on one condition; that all the town residents and the bet din must be present.

    The following morning, all the town's Jews gathered at the grave and were witnesses to this unique happening. The Rav and the bet din also arrived and the grand Rav gave the permission to open the grave and the missing wallet was found right away.

    Suddenly, weird noises were heard coming from the burial ground. Inside the hole of the burial they saw the scariest view ever seen before: The hairs of the dead woman were torn off and stuffed inside her mouth so that her mouth was completely blocked. Her skull was bald, covered by thousands of worms and set in a way the woman used to set her hair when she was alive.

    The town's Rav seeing this revealed miracle, woke up the residents to do Teshuva and said: This incident is directly from HaShem. It is no coincidence that the wallet fell inside the burial of the immodest woman. HaShem is showing us how severe it is for a woman to reveal her hair and use it as a weapon for beauty.

    The whole town was greatly influenced to see the judgment of this woman and how the judgment is measurement for measurement.

  2. I am surprise you take Nava Klein the proprietor of Dreaming of Moshiach as credible source. If you read her posts during the years, she met Sarah imeinu, King David, Baal Shem tov and other interesting characters, She actually met the real messiah who incidentally looks like the late lubavitche rebbe.
    You missed the whole point. The story is fairly typical of what passes for inspirational stories today. The response to the story is my main concern.

  3. Stories like this actually have their place, even though they are obviously flawed from an intellectual standpoint.

    I know a woman who became frum all because she learned about the famous Aish HaTorah Torah codes. She felt that it was proof that G-d wrote the Torah. Now she's married with lots of children, bli ayin hara. I wouldn't be surprised if she still believes in the Torah codes.

    Sometimes, a healthy dose of irrational thinking can change a person's life for the better. I read a book written by a doctor 100 years ago called "The horse and buggy doctor" talking about how medicine men, witch doctors, and shamans have been more successful in treating certain illnesses than modern medicine (in his time). A little bit of magic and irrationality can be good sometimes. (I've heard stories in Israel of hepatitis being cured with pigeons dying on a person's stomach.)

    But I agree with the response by the anonymous author. This type of thinking can be destructive when taken in high doses.

  4. The post is written as if there is no basis for the idea that G-d accomplishes all actions and that divine providence cannot explain fortuitous coincidences. I agree with the last paragraph of the post, and the need for people to understand that everything will not work out miraculously and that is OK. But people should not pretend as if a weak conception of divine providence, in which G-d only rarely intervenes in the life of men, is the only defensible hashgafic opinion.

    Consider Nachum Gamzu. Or the Talmudic idea that there is no tribulation without transgression -- even putting on one's shirt inside out is mentioned as something that must have been sent by G-d as a punishment. Or the book of Esther. All is foreseen yet free will granted. Yes, there are statements about natural law versus divine providence in the statements of some sages, but as Rebbe Nachman explained (and as Slifkin himself suggested), this does not mean that what seems to be natural law and chance is not directed by G-d in a way we cannot understand (Slifkin, Challenge of Creation, p.71).

    Assuming they are not known to be false, such stories have value. And they may well be true. The same is true for Baal Shem Tov or other tzaddik stories -- surely some of them are true. And they inspire people. But as the author of the post suggests, people need to be realistic and learn how to cope with loss and disappointment and in a very practical way improve our communities. This coping with loss, though, can include the belief in divine providence. If one has a strong faith that G-d does everything for the best, one starts to see divine providence in one's life, and understand the many hints G-d sends us every day. Of course, it takes much prayer and practice to get to that level. And people should not be discouraged when they cannot see things this way.

  5. The story is not true.

    There was such a young man, and his life was saved in Belgium, but it had less to do with miracles and more to do with the Charedi Health Minister using the power, political influence, and finances of the State of Israel to arrange that the young man receive a transplant.

    He was unilaterally moved to the head of the list and these extraordinary measures were taken for him becaue it suited the political interests of teh Health Minister.

    The boy is from an EXTREMELY influential family in the yeshiva world (begins with a samech and ends with a kuf) that is known for their disdain for the medina.

    He received the liver way before the volcano hit, through a special deal with the Israeli gov't, whose taxpayers paid for the whole thing.

    We have not heard a word of hakoros hatov to the gov't for having done this for them.

    I guess when it's all Min HaShomayim, one does not have to have Hakoros Hatov to anyone anymore, especially the medina and its taxpayers.

  6. Thank you so much for posting that response. I think it so eloquently described the reasoning behind the sort of emotional trajectory that my own frumkeit has taken from the time I became religious (very quickly, and when I was very young) until I met with the first real challenge of my religious life (that is, having shalom bayis with a person I barely knew) and through now where I am having a hard time coaching myself to have any emunah in even the existence of G-d because of particularly difficult life circumstances.

  7. David's post, if true, is really sickening.

  8. Anonymous 1:38, I know what you mean. It is hard to coach oneself to have emunah! I think many people think that a few seconds of coaching here and there should be enough to get one back on the right track -- I often assumed this myself. Now I realize that lengthy personal prayer and meditation is necessary. Rav Shalom Arush's book on prayer, In Forest Fields, is an invaluable guide in this task. I've already reread several times his book on Shalom Bayit, which is amazingly useful.


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