Oct 13, 2012

There is No Outsmarting G-d

In Aleinu L'Shabei'ach Bereishis, there is a letter from the Steipler Gaon (R' Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, d. 1985) which sets out a fundamental outlook on life.  It is written in connection to women and children, but the message applies to everyone. 

He writes that women make a big mistake when they think that by choosing not to have many children their lives will be easier.  All difficulties in life are decreed by Hashem on Rosh Hashana and there is no getting around them.  If a person tries to escape from some burden that brings suffering with it, a different affliction will take its place so that his portion of suffering is neither more nor less than it would have been.

Hashem has many messengers: illnesses, financial woes, humiliations, controversies, quarrels between spouses or other family members, friends, neighbors or business partners, inexplicable mishaps, anxieties etc. No strategy in the world will add or detract from what was designated for us, both in pain and pleasure.  If a person chooses to lighten his burden in one way, Hashem will provide an alternative.

This reminds me of this post: here and Rosie's comment about it is Hashem who enables mankind to make discoveries such as penicillin and vaccinations.  Hashem has given us the way to eradicate many formerly fatal illnesses, but ... like it says in the Steipler's letter, whatever is meted out on Rosh Hashana is what we will experience, no matter the progress of modern medicine.

And what about the modern-day scourge of self-inflicted misery? People in western cultures are making themselves sick with all sorts of emotional problems due to unbalanced thinking.

I think it would be incorrect to say that if we were able to teach everyone healthy thought patterns, well, so Hashem would afflict us with other problems.  Just as it's a mitzva to take care of our physical health and doing so is not a matter of attempting to get around any gezeira that may have been decreed, so too and even more so, it is our obligation to guard our minds.

On another note, on the words “And they[the Egyptians] embittered their lives with hard work, in mortar and in bricks…by which they made them serve with rigor” (Shmos 1:14). “And they embittered their lives” – the Zohar says this is the Torah (of which it is said [regarding words of Torah], “for they are our life”); “with hard work (b’avoda kasha)” – this refers to a quandary in learning (kushia); “in mortar (b’chomer)” – this is the kal v’chomer; “and in all work in the field” – this is a Braisa; “and in bricks (l’veinim)” – this is the clarification (libun) of Torah law.

We learn from this that it is possible to replace and exchange all the hardships of galus – making a living, other troubles, etc. – for spiritual matters.

1 comment:

  1. I think that what is driving frum women to limit the amount of children that they have is the pressure to pay exorbitant tuition. In order to even come close to paying what they are being charged, both parents are expected to work and not all women can adequately juggle pregnancy, child raising, homemaking, and an outside job. The stress is spilling over into family life. This is in addition to the stress caused by the extravagances that are expected of frum people today that we as a society have not managed to tame.