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Thought for the Day: Not "Nebbich" This Must Be Good, But With Enthusiasm This is for the Best

I had the opportunity to learn with R' Hillel Belsky, shlita (I met him when he was was daughter's principal at Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov High School) at a ba'ala batische chavura that he said was targeted to what he called "2nd level ba'alei t'shuva".  That, not FFT (from from Tuesday), but not FFB either; sort of a sandwich generation.  We nominally learned Pachad Yitzchak, but R' Belsky used the chavura as a platform to bring us up to speed, so to speak, on the frum Weltanschauung.  A favorite story to poke fun at how many of us use "Baruch HaShem, I have no complaints" was the cockroach story:
Two cockroaches who were good friends were one day separated by a tractor tearing up their home.  The both went flying; one landed on a dung heap (shalal rav!), the other in the middle of an abandoned parking lot.  Some weeks later (that's decades in cockroach years), they happened to find each other.  The one who landed in the dung heap was fat and smoking a cigar (it's a mashal and that's called poetic licence, buddy), whereas the poor cockroach from the parking lot was emaciated and tubercular (see previous note on poetic licence).  They greeted each other warmly (as warmly as possible for cold-blooded creatures, of course).  The rich cockroach was shocked by his friend's appearance and asked what had happened.  "Well, you know, parnassa is hard; Baruch HaShem, I have no complaints.  But you, my friend, you have done very well.  What is your secret?"  "Brains and personality, dear fellow, brains and personality."
Of course the main take away is that we tend to take credit for our successes, but acknowledge HaShem as the author of our misery and then grudgingly concede that כל דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד/everything that HaShem does is for the good, or it's more succinct cousin גם זו לטובה/this is also good.  There is an underlying -- and, I believe, disturbing -- context, though.  Namely, that nothing is every really bad; it is only my weak character and bad midos that makes my experience anything as bad.

That's wrong; wrong, wrong, wrong.  There is evil and HaShem created it.  It is not just that "I, nebbich, experience evil"; no, there is real evil.  See דעת תבונות/"The Knowing Heart" for details, but the basic idea is that HaShem created a distance between Him and His Creation in order to His critters to choose to close that gap via Torah and Mitzvos.  That distance is known as "evil"; not that evil creates a distance, but that the distance itself is experienced by us as evil.  Evil was created -- by HaShem -- to be removed by us.  That work of closing the gap is the merit by which we enjoy Olam Haba for all eternity.  Lots to be said on that topic, not here nor now.

Evil, therefore, was not meant to be ignored nor tolerated; it was created for no purpose other than to be destroyed.  To say "Baruch HaShem; I have no complaints" is to abdicate one's very reason for existence.  So what is the proper response to evil?  I saw the most chilling and inspiring post recently: Prayer for Eating Chametz on Passover – in Bergen Belsen 1944.  You should look, but the prayer (translated into English) reads:
Before eating Chametz say the following with intent and devotion:
Our Father in Heaven! It is known to You that we desire to fulfill Your will and observe the Passover holiday by eating Matzah and safeguarding against Chametz. But our hearts are pained at the captivity which prevents us, and we find ourselves in danger of our lives. We are hereby ready to fulfill Your commandments “And you shall live by them (the commandments)” and not die by them, and to observe the caution of “guard yourself and watch your soul/life very much.” Therefore our prayer to You is that You keep us alive, and sustain us, and redeem us speedily, so that we may observe Your laws and fulfill Your will and serve You with a full heart. Amen!
May we deal with trials and tribulations we have in our own lives with similar dignity and devotion.


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