Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Sunday, March 20, 2016

In Spirit and in Truth

When we encounter a trial, we usually await the deliverance from the trial.  And when the deliverance finally comes, we remember to thank the Almighty for delivering us.  But how often do we remember to also thank and show appreciation to the Almighty for the trial itself?

The 50th Psalm teaches us this lesson.  "He who offers confession honors Me; and he who orders his way I will show him the salvation of G-d" (v. 23).  Simply understood, the Almighty is extolling the virtues of those who present to Hashem an offering of thanks.

One of our revered Sages, the Ksav Sofer, based on a midrash in Vayikra Rabbah 9:2, finds a connotation to the word yechabdaneni, translated 'acknowledge', a connotation which he derives from the doubling of the letter nun in the word.  He explains that sometimes only after the salvation are we first able to perceive the kindness and inherent goodness hidden within the trial or tzarah.

Therefore, one nun is meant to thank the Almighty for saving us, while the other nun conveys gratitude for giving us the tzarah, the trial, to begin with.  The intensified double-nun ending in the word yechabdaneni indicates one who "truly honors Me."  And so David would have us understand, as he did, that to truly honor Hashem involves not only thanking Him for the yeshua, the salvation, but for the tzarah, the trial, as well.

I truly believe that everything the L-d does is always for the best - the very best. Sometimes we may not see it immediately, but if we keep our eyes open, I believe that we will be privileged to see His goodness and kindness, even within the difficulties and trials we sometimes experience.  If we take this path, as the psalm encourages us and remember to thank Hashem doubly for all that we have had to endure, then Hashem says: "I will show you how the salvation came through what was normally perceived as the attribute of justice, midat hadin, which comes along with the name Elohim."

The upshot of Psalm 50, then, is that it is critical for us to remember that it is not the person who merely brings offerings that does Him honor, but the one who does not restrict his love, devotion, and gratitude for the Holy One to any one time, or place, or ritual act; but such a man rather bases his entire way of life upon the worship of G-d, and who, by his G-d-fearing conduct outside the sanctuary translates the promises he made while in the Sanctuary into living reality, a reality that is expressed in genuineness and sincerity of a life lived before an audience of One.  It is just such a man who, as our sages relate, will be permitted to experience that true and genuine life which can be granted by G-d and no one else.

We would do well to remember Rav Sha'ul's (Paul's) exhortation in his epistle to the Romans:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of G-d’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to G-d—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what G-d’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (cf. Romans 12)

2 comments:

  1. One thing I have learned in the past 6 years or so, is that maybe the trial is simply given to us to see what we, and others around us, are made of.

    We really cannot know ourselves/our faith until we come under the stresses that come with a trial. So when people cannot seem to figure out the "why", that is what I tell them. God sometimes needs to know, and to show us, what we are made of. Faith grows best when it is fed by persecution. Like the Christians in China and Korea, Africa. And now especially the Middle East. I imagine their faith has only been growing stronger with each passing day.

    When my dear FIL spent most of the last 2-1/2 years suffering from the agonies of Alzheimer's, my husband dropped everything(with my blessing) and basically lived with his parents during that time, sleeping on the floor of the living room to catch him during his night wanderings. They were so appreciative Rabbi B, I cannot tell you how much. When the time came for an assisted living facility, he even stayed there with them in the room, with the blessing of the staff.

    His sister, who had the POA the whole time, tried so hard to ruin the relationship between her parents and their son, my hubby. Instead of spending the remaining days making good memories for everyone, both siblings just acted nasty.

    While my hubby was devoting himself to that, his sister and brother refused to deal with it. They would not even give him a break to come down to see me occasionally. Our daughter, who was also living there would give him a short break when her own job requirements allowed it.
    Instead, their reaction was to run amok through 67 years of their parent's lives together, wreaking destruction in their path, and treating my husband vilely. I cannot tell you how vile they were towards him.

    My husband was so saddened by finding out about the true nature of his siblings Rabbi B. The funeral of his dad was last June, and he was finally able to come home. He did manage to bring a bit of stuff home with him, which we treasure very much. But it was a long trial and lonely for him.

    It has been a slog, but he is finally getting himself back to a normal life for us. Problem is, his sister is still driving wedges between their mom and my husband. I know he stresses over this a lot.

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  2. Susan,

    I really appreciate what your husband has done to honor and support his parents. What an honorable man, and I know he already has his reward for his love, commitment and self-sacrifice. Sadly, his siblings have theirs as well. There are just not enough men like your husband willing to do the right thing. especially at great personal cost to themselves.

    I will try to remember to keep you both in my prayers and that G-d will heal and strengthen you both through a painful ordeal. We take heart that G-d is not a capricious entity just trying to stir up trouble for us for trouble's sake, even when we don't fully understand what He is up to in out lives. We are assured in the Scriptures that He is always working for the good of those who love Him. He is a loving Father that gives us everything we need, even if it is a trial that tests our faith.

    Please express my admiration and support to your husband. He sounds like a great man.

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