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Thought for the Day: Yes, Virginia, HaShem Runs the World

I offer the following story with some trepidation, but it is inspiring and I believe the possible damage can be mitigated.

There was an Israeli solder in one of the elite military units who began turning toward the Torah.  He went to a shiur here and there, read this and that, and so on.  At one point he came to a point in his תשובה process where he had to, as it were, "fish or cut bait".  His unit was all volunteer and he made the decision to not reenlist for another tour of duty.  He came home, through himself into becoming a בעל תשובה.  It wasn't 30 days later that he died.  The particulars are absolutely irrelevant to what follows and the point of this story.

The young man's rav was preparing to make a shiva call, but had no idea how to answer the most obvious question/challenge he was going to get from the parents: "He turns toward HaShem, he wants to become more religious... and he dies in barely a month?!"

Of course, this is an old question.  When Rus came back to Eretz Yisrael and was sent by Naomi to Boaz as her redeemer.  Boaz said that he would accept his responsibility, but first there was a closer relative, Ploni Almoni.  Ploni refused because he didn't like Rus's yichus (boy, have I heard that one a lot...).  So Boaz married Rus... and he died the next day.  Ploni must have felt quite justified in his decision and thankful to have dodged that bullet.  The medrash, however, tells us that Boaz was actually supposed to have died some days/months earlier.  He was given extra life specifically to give him the opportunity to perform this mitzvah.  Boaz thus became the great^n-grandfather of מלך המשיח.  Ploni Almoni because the poster child for anonymity.

That medrash offeres a great answer to us ultra-Orthodox Jews to understand events in כתבי קודש that happened thousands of years ago.  Not so much for non-religious parents sitting shiva and grieving the loss of their beautiful son.  So the rav went to see  R' Chaim Kanievsky for advice.  R' Chaim Kanievsky told him basically the message of the medrash: Who knows how long any of us have?  Perhaps the boy was supposed to die earlier, but was given an extra month of life to be able actualize his תשובה and live an observant life for nearly a month in this world.  I don't know if he said over the medrash or just gave that answer; either way, the rav was not feeling very hopeful.

So the rav went to pay his shiva call, and the parents asked that obvious and terrifying question.  The rav thought and thought; nothing came to mind.  Finally, out of desperation, he told them the words of the great R' Chaim Kanievsky.

On hearing those words, the boy's father leapt to his feet and cried, "אמת/Truth!"  It turns out that his son's (ex)unit had been sent on a mission the day after his son had left.  The helicopter crashed and 11 soldiers lost their lives that day; 30 days before his own son died... as a religious, observant Jew.

My trepidation with this story is simply: and what if their hadn't been an accident?  Do 11 young men need to die for us to be inspired?  My mitigation is: No, but since it happened we need to take חיזוק where we can to remind ourselves to concretize what we all believe.  HaShem does run the world; and Thank G-d for that!


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