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Thought for the Day: Sefer Iyov from 20,000 Leagues Over the Sky

One of the things you are allowed to learn in Tisha b'Av is Iyov.  I wish my reaction to that halacha was more than a sardonic "yay".  Having just heard 46 extremely elucidating shiurim from R' Yisoel Belsky on how to answer very fundamental challenges from apikorsim, I was happy to see shiurim from R' Belsky on Iyov.  I was less happy when I saw it was only on chapters 25 through 31.  However, beggars can't be choosers, so I took the plunge.  Imagine my surprise to hear R' Belsky saying on the first shiur that since he was taking over the shiur at the 25th chapter, he would give a basis overview of the sefer.  JACKPOT!
Aside: I was already impressed by R' Belsky's depth and breadth of knowledge on so many topics.  (I know a more physics than he does, but he knows more biology than I do... and I started as a pre-med.)  Realizing, though, that he could "just take over" a shiur on Iyov like I could take over a shiur on algebra was another boost in my esteem for him.  Hearing him say, "once when I was learning Iyov with the Malbin..." was really over the top.
The basics are well known, Iyov has a wonderful life and uses all his resources -- spiritual, intellectual, and fiscal -- in avodas HaShem.  Then one day, out of nowhere, everything is taken from him; his wealth, his children, and his health.  He is left covered in painful sores, without family, and destitute; all he has left is his desire to know the ways of HaShem.  His desire was never simply academic, but now his eternal life and well-being depends on his resolution to be true to his faith and principles in the face of multiple very personal tragedies of unimagined proportions.

Iyov has three friends who try to help him come to terms with his situation and keep his faith.  They (to use military terms) are three battalions working together.  They come in three waves, each time with a different strategy, and each time repulsed.  The first strategy is "tzadik v'rah lo"/a righteous person  who gets a raw deal in this world.  The friend argues that Iyov is being punished in this world in order to cleanse him of the tiniest sin so that he can enter Olam HaBah with no dimension of deficiency.  Iyov dismisses the argument on the grounds (ok, I am way over simplifying, but it's an overview, right?) be detailing his past righteousness and demonstrates that this level of punishment could not fit the crime.

The second strategy takes the opposite approach -- "rashah v'tov lo"/good things happen to evil people.  Iyov (as a created being) didn't deserve anything he had been given; it was all a free gift from the Creator.  Others have it so good?  Perhaps they are evil and are being rewarded in this world.  (We all love to think that the rich will "get their's" someday.)  Again, Iyov is not impressed.  There difference in levels just cannot justify his suffering and their success.

The third argument is that HaShem's Ways are just too deep and mysterious to be understood.  The famous verse "oseh shalom bimromov"/He makes peace in His heavens, ie, competing forces (spiritual and physical) are all blended into a harmony, is from this chapter.  Iyov responds that he has a deeper understanding of the whole system than his friends, and he agrees that  HaShem's Ways are just too deep and mysterious to be understood.  However, HaShem also gave us a mind and free will, we have an obligation to investigate and there must be at least an approach to making sense of things; if not, why would be be given the capacity to understand, learn, delve, and choose?

Then come the answers... but there was no shiur on that.  Darn it; I'll have to learn Iyov some day.


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