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Thought for the Day: How Can a Loving G-d Be So Cruel (Spoiler Alert: It's A Mistake)

Imagine this scenario:  A person is sent to the authorities for a minor failure.  He is told that while he may feel the failure is minor, they have decided that it is actually due to a deeper failure and therefore they are throwing the book at him.  He will first be tortured for several months with injections of deadly poisons.  Then, if they decide that they have not routed out his deeply rooted failure, they will take more drastic actions; using knives to inflict deep wounds.  What if he truly feels that his failures are completely corrected after the months of poison?  That is not his decision, they admonish him; they will decide when the problem is corrected and his feelings are immaterial.  Perhaps they can go easy on him since he really had such a minor failure in the first place?  No, they tell him, he will be treated with the full force that the law will allow.

I don't actually have to imagine such a scenario; I remember it.  I went to my doctor with bronchitis; he told me that the bronchitis was a side effect of my immune system being compromised because I had a stage IV cancer.  The cure for which was three months of chemotherapy.  The chemotherapy would kill all the cancer, but leave scar tissue deep in my body (inside of my spinal column).  After the chemotherapy, therefore, I was told I would need a surgery.  An incision would be made from my right shoulder across my chest and abdomen to my left hip.  My organs would be moved out of my abdomen and onto my chest while the doctor worked for six or more hours to scrape (that's the word he used) the scar tissue off the inside of my spine.  Then he'd put everything back inside me, sew me up and after a month or so, I'd be as good as I was going to get.  Don't think about increasing my family and would likely need diapers.  (As it turned out, I did not actually need the surgery.  R' Fuerst sent me to a doctor whom he knew to be one of the world's experts on the cancer I had, and that doctor said for my rare kind of cancer, surgery was not needed.)

I asked my doctor if they could go easy on the chemotherapy.  He said that, no, he was giving my the full dose specified by the protocol because people who followed the protocol got cured.  He was going to cure me; there would be side effects, but I would be alive and cured.  In point of fact, my doctor (who was frum), adjusted my dose every week as my weight dropped.  He wanted to give me the full dose required by the protocol, but not one drop more.

When reading some parashos in the Torah -- especially a תוכחה/reproof -- an unlearned and shallow person could wonder why the G-d of the Old Testament is so mean.  The reality is, as usual, exactly the opposite of what unlearned and shallow people say; no matter how numerous and boisterous their proclamations.  HaShem is our Father, our King, but also our Doctor.  HaShem tells us the consequences of following the Torah and the opposite.  Like a father who tells his son the dangers of smoking and excessive drinking, HaShem warns us of the consequences of poor choices.  Then HaShem goes the next step; He tells that that no matter how deeply we get ourselves in trouble, He can always save us.  As David HaMelech tells  us (t'hillim 107:13):  וַיִּזְעֲקוּ אֶל-יְהוָה, בַּצַּר לָהֶם;    מִמְּצֻקוֹתֵיהֶם, יוֹשִׁיעֵם/They call out to HaShem in their distress, He saves them even from the trouble they have made for themselves. (Translation as explained by the Mabit.)

This, then is how to hear the תוכחה: I (HaShem) have told you everything about how the world -- physical and spiritual -- works.  If you make good choices, you will achieve perfection and I will encourage you to continue to make those choices.  If you make poor choices, you will cause yourself trouble and distress; I have set the system up like that discourage you from making damaging choices.  However, I will not let you lose yourself completely; I, HaShem, will personally step in an cure you.  The cure will be devastating, but it will be a cure and you will live.  I am telling you all this now to encourage you to make good choices and avoid damaging choices; and also so you know that I will not let you get lost.

Why do we need to work for our perfection and pay for our mistakes?  That is the ultimate kindness bestowed by HaShem, to give us this beautiful world and a Torah full of mitzvos in order to be the authors of our own eternal reward.  Getting something without feeling you earned it is the ultimate cruelty and snuffs out life.  Just ask Howard Hughes and Elvis Presley.  Oh wait... you can't; they're dead, and they died long before they stopped breathing.

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