| Parshah |

In Good Hands

If we turn ourselves over to ratzon Hashem, we don’t have to worry



“You are all standing today before Hashem…” (Devarim 29:9)



The Sifsei Kohein quotes the Midrash Tanchuma, explaining that when other nations of the world receive afflictions, they become angry with Hashem and don’t mention His name. Conversely, when Klal Yisrael suffer, they humble themselves before Hashem.
We know that when Hashem inflicts us with pain, it’s all for our good. He cleanses us in this world, so that we should merit all goodness in Olam Haba.
But suffering is so painful; is it really the only way for Hashem to achieve His plan? Is there no other way? Many seforim discuss this topic, but ultimately the question remains unanswered.
We, however, should not leave this question of “why” hanging. We don’t ask why, because there is no answer. As the tzaddik Rav Shimon of Yaruslov said at the age of 90, “You know why I’ve lived so long? Because I never ask Hashem why. I don’t want Him to answer: ‘You want to know why? Come up here and I’ll tell you.’ ” (Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski)

It’s always during Elul that my appliances revolt. Then we need to call the plumber. And the AC repairman. And the mechanic.

It’s par for the course, and I’m always grateful for these glitches this time of year. It’s clear I need some kapparos going into the Yom Hadin, and I’m thankful Hashem chooses inanimate objects as a lesson to me.

Like any normal human being, I have good days and lousy days. One day I was in a bad, bad mood. Two of my former patients who had graduated treatment for alcoholism dropped by. As I was still in a lousy mood, they managed to convince me to attend an AA meeting that evening.
At an AA Gratitude Meeting, everyone gets up and says, “I’ve been sober for six years, and my life’s been so much better; everything’s great, etc., etc.” And one after another, everyone got up to give his shpiel about why he’s so happy how his life turned out. This was not what I needed to hear.
Finally, the last guy got up and said, “I’ve been sober for four years. I wish I could tell you that they’ve been good. But I lost my job and I’m still unemployed. The bank foreclosed on my house. My wife divorced me and took custody of the kids. And last week the finance company repossessed my car. But I can’t believe that G-d brought me all this way, only to walk out on me now.”
That’s when I realized why I was at that meeting. To remember, as we say in Nishmas every Shabbos, “You will never forsake us, Hashem, forever.”

This year was no exception. My coffee mug slipped right out of my hand and shattered. Yes, it was from the set that I bought as a kallah, and no, they no longer make that pattern. Then someone sat on the door of my front-loading washing machine (the said someone claimed he didn’t realize the door would just snap off), and no, the door is not covered in the warranty I shell out monthly.

My car got a flat tire, and the pipes in the main bathroom have been practicing shofar blowing every time we use the water. More money poured down the drain (literally).

I get powerful lessons from AA meetings. One time I was stuck in Manhattan. I don’t like Manhattan; I think it’s a mistake. Nothing was working out that day, so I went to an AA meeting in Manhattan.
A young woman was speaking, and I’ve heard her same story a hundred thousand times. She started using alcohol young, then marijuana and other drugs, and her lifestyle deteriorated, etc., etc.
When she was in her mid-twenties, she entered a recovery program, now she’s sober and things are great. The story didn’t do anything for me, as I’ve heard it a thousand times.
Then she said, “Before I leave, I have to tell you one more thing. I’m a New York Jets fan, and I’ll never miss a game. One weekend I had to be away, so I asked my friend to record the game. When she shared the recording, she said, ‘By the way, the Jets won.’
“That didn’t stop me from watching the whole game. And the Jets were getting mauled! Playing horribly! By halftime they were 20 points behind. Under other circumstances I would have been a nervous wreck. This time I was perfectly calm, because, hey, I knew they were going to win.”
She smiled and added, “That’s what this program’s all about — turning my life over to G-d’s will. Sometimes I’m playing badly and 20 points behind. But I know I’m going to win.”
This story really stuck with me. If we turn ourselves over to ratzon Hashem, we don’t have to worry, because we know we’re in good Hands. He’s not going to walk out on us now.

But all that’s not what’s contributing to the heavy feeling I’m carrying around with me as Rosh Hashanah draws closer.

I’m simply not ready for Rosh Hashanah. I don’t feel I have the strength to stand up and ask Hashem, “Please can we, all of us, all of Klal Yisrael, have a good year next year?”

This past year seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye, but it’s also lasted for a million years. Was it a whole year ago that I stood about to bentsh licht Erev Rosh Hashanah?

I can pull up the scene as though it were yesterday. The world was in such flux. Shuls were closed, I had two kids in quarantine.

I stood with my eyes closed in front of those candles and begged Hashem, “Please let next year be good.”

And now I’m standing in the same place. And my heart feels so heavy. So full of pain. We’ve lost so many this year. Covid, Meron, Karlin, Surfside. So many communal tears. So many families torn apart.

“Hashem,” I can barely muster up a whisper. “Please can this year be good? If I think good, will it be good?”

But the flames seem to flicker their answer. It is good now. I may not be able to see it, but we’re in good Hands. He’s not going to walk out on us now.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 758)

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