| Parshah |


If you look inside and acquire a deeper understanding of Hashem’s plan you won’t need to cry


“I will conceal, I will hide My face on that day, because of all the bad they do, that they turned to gods…” (Devarim 31:18)


he pasuk uses a double lashon of hiding: “Haster aster.” There are two types of Hashem’s concealment. The first is when times are tough and terrifying, but people still recognize that Hashem is running the world behind the scenes. But the Baal Shem Tov used to say that he was even more afraid of the times of double concealment, when people are unaware that everything is coming from Hashem. The hardships then are much worse; people suffer, and cannot comfort themselves that there is purpose for their troubles. (Rabbi Elimelech Biderman, Torah Wellsprings)

Paying a shivah call is never easy. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, the age of the deceased, whether or not the death was anticipated. Those questions simply don’t matter (and, frankly, should never be asked). When walking into a shivah house, you never know what you’re going to find, and if you’ll be able to provide some comfort — the point of your visit.

My neighbor was sitting shivah for her mother, who had succumbed to a fast-acting cancer. Her mother had lived in the States, but the kevurah had been here in Eretz Yisrael, and I knew her siblings were sitting with her in her house.

Shlomo Hamelech writes: “He watches from the windows, peeks through the cracks.” (Shir Hashirim 2:9) Whether through a window or a crack, Hashem can watch and see us perfectly. The difference is whether we’re able to see Him.

The house was relatively full. Pulling up a chair near my friend, I listened as she retold stories and memories of her mom, sometimes with a sob, other times just reminiscing, as she struggled to find comfort in the retelling. Sitting next to her in a semi-circle were several women, whose strong resemblance to my friend made it clear that they were relatives, come to be menachem avel. They too added to the anecdotes, both with tears and nostalgic longing.

I listened for a while. It’s rare that I walk out of a shivah house without chizuk, both from the actions of the niftar as well as the actions of those who are mourning her. Here, too, I was captivated by the many stories, and the dignity with which they were retold.

Someone came to Rebbe Henoch of Alexander, bemoaning his many problems. The Rebbe related that when he was a child learning in cheder, his rebbi punished him because he wasn’t paying attention, and he began to cry. The rebbi said, “If you look inside when I teach you, you won’t need to cry.” Similarly, Reb Henoch explained, if you will look inside — and acquire a deeper understanding of Hashem’s plan — you also won’t need to cry.

I stood to say HaMakom before I left, and that’s when I saw her. She wasn’t sitting with all her other relatives in a circle. Her low chair was in a corner, and although there was someone sitting next to her, neither of them spoke. This woman just sat there sobbing.

I stopped, stuck. I didn’t know this relative, and it was obvious that even those who did know her were not managing to comfort her. But I felt compelled to walk over to that small corner and sit gingerly on the edge of a chair. My movement caught her interest and she looked up briefly, her eyes darkening as she saw me.

“Are you one of Marianne’s friends?”

“Yes, I knew Mindy for years.”

“So, you’ve come to tell me this is all G-d’s will? That Mom is in a better place? That it’s the good ones G-d takes?”

I obviously hadn’t been planning on saying anything of the sort, but that didn’t stop her deluge of words.

“You can keep your saintliness. And Mom can keep hers. All this religion didn’t stop her G-d from killing her and didn’t help her in the long run at all. There was no good in Mom’s sickness and there’s no good in her death.” And then she buried her head once more in her hands, sobs convulsing her body.

I didn’t stay, didn’t want to cause her any more pain. But as I turned to leave her, I felt tears on my own face. I had no comfort to offer this mourner — this woman who had no answers, no understanding of the bigger picture that provides the ultimate healing.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 812)

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