with Rav Avigdor Miller
The Wicked Make Us Great
Part I. The Great and The Wicked
Setting The Stage of History
We’ll listen now to a possuk in Koheles that is very important for all of us. It’s in the seventh perek, possuk fourteen: גַּם אֶת זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹקִים – Elokim made one thing opposite the other thing.
Now, in its most general sense Shlomo Hamelech is telling us that all the phenomena of this world are planned by Hakodosh Boruch Hu to cooperate with each other. Even though superficially it seems to us that this world is full of many unrelated things, when you study His creations you’ll see that actually everything has a place; and it’s זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה, one thing is made to cooperate with something else.
But we’ll see now how the Gemara (Chagiga 15a) explains this possuk; our chachomim tell us that it’s not only in the functioning of the physical world that this principle holds true; even in the spiritual functioning of the world Hakodosh Boruch Hu employs this principle. And one example they bring of this phenomenon is בָּרָא צַדִּיקִים – Hakodosh Boruch Hu made righteous people, וּלְעֻמַּת זֶה – and opposite to the righteous, בָּרָא רְשָׁעִים – He made wicked men. He purposefully sets the stage of history in this manner, where the tzadik and rasha face off with each other.
I Can Be A Tzadik
Now, before we try to understand what they’re telling us, it’s important to know what it means that Hakodosh Boruch Hu “made” wicked people and righteous people. Because we know that Hakodosh Boruch Hu doesn’t undertake to make anybody good or bad. That’s one of the foundations of this world, that mankind comes into this world to exercise bechirah, free will.
Every person comes into the world with an opportunity to choose and anyone, man or woman, can become whatever he desires to be. The fact is that if she chooses so, even a simple housewife can excel and become greater than the greatest tzaddik. Of course, you cannot become a man if you happen to be a woman. You cannot become a giant if you happen to be born short. But within a certain realm, within a certain area, everyone is given the free will to excel. Hakodosh Boruch Hu doesn’t make anybody choose one way or the other.
And therefore, we cannot say that this statement in Chagiga is telling us that Hakodosh Boruch Hu actually created righteous people and created wicked people. He created people, but righteous and wicked; that they make themselves.
Placed with Purpose
So what does it mean here that Hakodosh Boruch Hu created the reshaim and the tzaddikim? It means this. Hakodosh Boruch Hu looks ahead into the future and he knows what is going to happen; he knows who is going to choose righteousness and who will choose to be not righteous.
Now that may be a puzzle to many people. If everyone has free will, how can Hakodosh Boruch Hu know beforehand what they’re going to be? And the answer is, He has His ways of knowing things. כִּי גָבְהוּ שָׁמַיִם מֵאָרֶץ כֵּן גָּבְהוּ דְרָכַי מִדַּרְכֵיכֶם וּמַחְשְׁבֹתַי מִמַּחְשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם – “The way I know things,” Hashem said, “is far different from the way you know things” (Yeshaya 45:9). And so He knows. Even though people have free will, Hakodosh Boruch Hu can project His view into the future and He can see what they’re going to choose. He doesn’t interfere but He looks ahead and He foresees what a man’s free will is going to be.
So what does He do? When He sees that there’s going to be a certain righteous man, a man who’s going to exert himself to choose the right way in life, He wants to give him the opportunity to accomplish in this world. So He looks into the future and He finds a man who chooses to be wicked, a man with certain abilities, and He says, “I’m going to put them both together in this world; they’re going to be in the same generation and in the same locale. And the purpose is to give the tzaddik an opportunity to be tested by the rasha.”
And that’s how our great men throughout history became great, because of zeh le’umas zeh; there was always somebody else who stood opposite them — someone placed opposite them — giving them opportunities to rise to the occasion.
Where do we find this? In Mesichta Avodah Zarah (2a), the gemara tells that at the end of days Hakodosh Boruch Hu will make an announcement that all those who deserve reward, should come and take their reward. And naturally when reward is available, everybody is a customer. So all the nations will come; all the peoples of the world from all the periods of history will assemble and they’ll say, “We’re here. We apply.”
There’s a big conversation that the gemara records there, a back and forth, and finally Hakodosh Boruch Hu gives them the news that they didn’t qualify. He’s sorry but there’s only one nation that’s going to get rewarded, that’s the Am Yisroel.
And then the goyim say, “Why did you choose the Am Yisroel? Just because they accepted your Torah? But did they fulfill Your commandments? Who says they obeyed the Torah?”
So Hakodosh Boruch Hu says to the nations as follows, “I’m going to bring witnesses to testify to my people. יִתְּנוּ עֵדֵיהֶם וְיִצְדָּקוּ – Let them give their testimonies in order to demonstrate the righteousness of the Am Yisroel (Yeshaya 43:9).”
Testimony of The Wicked
And so the Judge calls witness number one into the courtroom. יָבֹא נִמְרוֹד וְיָעִיד עַל אַבְרָהָם – “Let Nimrod come,” says Hashem, “and he should testify about who Avraham was.”
You know who Nimrod was? He wasn’t a little nobody. In boxing, when you have to test a heavyweight you don’t bring a bantamweight to compete with him. Heavyweights are only tested by heavyweights. And so a great man like Avrohom Avinu couldn’t be tested by a small rasha like Darwin or Mohammed or that other one, the mamzer. For Avrohom you have to bring somebody really big.
And there was nobody bigger than Nimrod! The Torah goes out of its way to describe his power, how he was a gibor tzayid and how he built big cities. He was building one city after another. Some of his cities lasted almost down to today!
Now, to us it seems as a parenthetical episode in history; it has nothing to do with the purpose of the Torah to relate the greatness of an ancient ruler long forgotten and has no connection with the purposes of the Torah history. The Torah seems to waste words on the career of Nimrod telling us how great he was.
Greats of Antiquity
But now we understand that it didn’t just happen in the generation of Nimrod that Avrohom happened to be there too and Avrohom utilized the opportunity to oppose Nimrod’s propaganda. No. זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹקִים – What happened was that Hashem saw Avrohom’s greatness, his potential, and that’s why he created a Nimrod.
All of Nimrod’s achievements were granted to him for one purpose! It was the korei hadoros meirosh, the One Who sees the generations beforehand. He said, “Here’s a boy coming up in this generation, a boy with tremendous potential. And I’m going to give him the opportunity to become great. I’ll give him a Nimrod, a real tyrant, a real organizer, a genius, one of the greatest men of antiquity, and he’ll have the opportunity to buck a rasha like that.
And Avrohom did it and that made him what he is. Avrohom appeared in middle of that cloudburst of idolatry and he was able to withstand the power of Nimrod. And so now we understand why Nimrod was placed into the days of Avrohom Avinu – it was in order that Avrohom should gain greatness by opposing him, so that despite Nimrod, Avrohom should have the opportunity to rise to the occasion and win out.
So now Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “Let Nimrod come and testify that Avrohom did not worship idolatry. That he stood up and passed the test.” It means let the man who made Avrohom Avinu great, let him come and testify to Avrohom’s greatness.
Summoned From the Trash
There’s another famous witness that will be summoned at the end of the days. Eishes Potiphar; that’s the wife of Yosef’s master. She’ll be summoned now from the garbage can where she’s been all these years. They’ll pull her out of the garbage can and they’ll say to her, “What do you have to say about Yosef?” וְתָּעִיד בְּיוֹסֵף שֶׁלֹּא נֶחְשַׁד עַל הָעֲבֵרָה – And she’ll testify that Yosef should not be suspected any moral misdeed. She’s the one who can testify. She’s the best witness because she tested Yosef every day.
It was כְּדַבְּרָהּ אֶל יוֹסֵף יוֹם יוֹם – She spoke to him day by day (Bereishis 39:10). We don’t know what she said but you can be sure she was a difficult test for Yosef. He wasn’t married, you have to know. And it wasn’t just once a day. בְּגָדִים שֶׁלָּבְשָׁה לוֹ עַרְבִית לֹא לָבְשָׁה לוֹ שַׁחֲרִית – She changed her dresses every day twice and she came to tempt him constantly (Yoma 35b). It was a terrible nisayon! And that’s how Yosef became tremendous. Yosef HaTzadik became Yosef HaTzadik because of that wicked woman.
Placed With Potifar
And now we know why it happened that way. Because Potifar could have had a wife who had no interest in other men besides her husband. She didn’t have to be that kind of woman. Or she could have been the type of wife who was never home. She was busy with the sisterhood someplace, planning teas, raising money for poor Egyptian orphans. Or she could have been a shopping lady, a wife who’s always out on the avenue looking for deals. She’s never home.
But it “happened” to be a woman who wasn’t the type that ran around. She was always home, this woman, and therefore she was always available. And now we know why that was. She was put there for one purpose – in order to make Yosef the successful man that he became. You know, if Yosef HaTzaddik would have yielded, then there wouldn’t have been any history of Yosef. It would have been finished and the Torah wouldn’t bother to tell the whole story how he was sold by his brothers. It would have been hushed up. There’s nothing to talk about and our forefathers wouldn’t have gone down to Egypt. There wouldn’t be a Yetzias Mitzrayim. Who knows what would have happened to the Jewish people?
Tzadikim and Reshaim
Now, if you take a look inside the Gemara there (Avoda Zara ibid.) you’ll see more examples of those who will be forced to testify on the great day. Nevuchadnezer will come and speak about how Chananya, Mishael and Azaryah stood up to him and wouldn’t bow down to his idol even at the threat of death. Daryavesh will come and testify about Daniel’s greatness, about how he continued to pray three times a day towards Yerushalayim even when it was forbidden. He continued the practice in the king’s palace as he had done when he was a boy in Eretz Yisroel.
How did Chananya, Mishael and Azaryah become great? Because of Nevuchadnezer. How did Daniel become great? Because there was a king Daryavesh. And why was there a Nevuchadnezer and Daryavesh? גַּם אֶת זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹקִים. Because when Hakodosh Boruch Hu saw that there would be a tzadik in that generation, that’s why He placed a rasha into that generation too. And at the end of days, it’ll become clear to everyone that it was because of this eternal principle of בָּרָא צַדִּיקִים וּלְעֻמַּת זֶה בָּרָא רְשָׁעִים that people rise to greatness.
Now, one of the witnesses who will come to testify at the end of days will be a character from this week’s sedrah. It’s our old friend Lavan. יָבוֹא לָבָן – “Let Lavan come,” says Hashem, וְיָעִיד עַל יַעֲקֹב – and he should testify about the greatness of Yaakov.” It means that Lavan is the one who was placed le’umas Yaakov – it was by means of Lavan that Yaakov became great.
Now we would think just the opposite. If you asked us, we would have said that Yaakov achieved his greatness because he was the yoshev ohalim; he was fortunate enough to sit in the tents of great people. He sat in the tent of his great parents, Yitzchok and Rivkah. And in addition to that, he was fourteen years in the tents of Shem V’Ever. And during those years his diligence was unequaled.
וַיִּשְׁכַּב בַּמָּקוֹם הַהוּא; the first time in fourteen years that he laid down to sleep was after he left the yeshiva (Vayeitzei 28:11, Rashi). In the yeshiva he slept only on his elbows at the table; he didn’t lay down in a bed – he was afraid he might sleep too much.
Now, learning with hasmadah for fourteen years like that is quite an accomplishment. If any one of us would remain fourteen years in Mirrer Yeshiva, we would become somebody; fourteen years in the old Mir in Europe he would be a bigger somebody. But to listen to shiurim for fourteen years from Ever?! If Ever would come here tonight and we’d hear one shiur from him we’d go home with something tremendous; we’d be different people altogether!
Source of Greatness
And so where did Yaakov become great? Where did he become Yaakov Avinu? There’s no doubt in our minds. It was in these tents in which he dwelled! What happened after that? After that, it was downhill from there. He ended up in the house of Lavan.It was some house; Lavan was as mean as could be and he was as crooked as could be. For us it would have been like a sojourn in gehenim, we couldn’t have taken it more than a week, but Yaakov took it for twenty years. And so in such a house it seems to us that there’s not much chance for spiritual achievement.
But at the end of days we’re going to find out just the opposite. When Hakodosh Boruch Hu will search for a witness to testify about Yaakov’s greatness it’s Lavan who is going to be called in. Not Yitzchok and Rivkah. Not Shem v’Ever. I’m sure they’d have good things to say, very good things. Yaakov became prepared in those tents. If it wasn’t for those years, if it wasn’t for those teachers, Yaakov wouldn’t have succeeded with Lavan. But it’s in the house of Lavan, that’s where he achieved his greatness. In that most unlikely place, the most unlikely place to accomplish anything spiritual, that’s where Yaakov became great.
Getting From The Go-Getter
How great? Let’s hear a report of the progress that he made in the house of Lavan. Listen to what Yaakov said at the end of his sojourn in that house: עִם לָבָן גַּרְתִּי … וַיְהִי לִי שׁוֹר וַחֲמוֹר צֹאן וְעֶבֶד וְשִׁפְחָה – “I lived with Lavan and I acquired there oxen and donkeys, flocks and servants and maidservants” (Bereishis 32:5-6). You remember, in our sedrah Yaakov came to Lavan penniless; he had nothing. And now he was leaving Lavan with tremendous wealth. Herds, flocks, servants!
Now, to get property out of the house of Lavan was an especially big achievement because Lavan wasn’t the kind of man who let anybody get any property. Lavan was out for property himself. Lavan loved one thing; besides himself he loved one other thing. Money!
You remember when Lavan saw the jewelry that Eliezer had given to Rivkah? It says (Bereishis 24:30) כִּרְאֹת אֶת הַנֶּזֶם וְאֶת הַצְּמִדִים, when he saw the rings and the bracelets, so Lavan said“Welcome, you blessed of Hashem.” So we see what Lavan blessed for. Lavan lived for business. And so for Yaakov to leave with so much property, with herds and flocks and servants, that’s a big accomplishment.
Acquiring The Glorious Future
Butthe medrash tells us that there are hidden meanings in these achievements. Yaakov acquired more than property in the house of Lavan. He took other things too. More important things. So let’s look at that possuk again and see how Chazal explain it.
וַיְהִי לִי שׁוֹר – So Chazal tell us, zeh Yosef, there I acquired a Yosef. Yosef is called shor in Tanach, בְּכוֹר שׁוֹרוֹ הָדָר לוֹ, and the possuk here is hinting to that. It doesn’t mean only that he gained a boy named Yosef. Yosef was a greatness, to have a son Yosef, to have another shevet, Menashe and Efraim, that was a perfection. It could only happen after Yaakov had reached a certain degree of greatness that he was deserving of having such a son. And where did he achieve it? He achieved it in the house of Lavan. Whatever Yosef is, it’s a whole conglomeration of great virtues and Yaakov gained that in the house of Lavan.
וַחֲמוֹר – and a donkey, what does that signify? So our sages tell us, Moshiach, who is going to come finally, עָנִי וְרֹכֵב עַל חֲמוֹר – a humble man riding on a donkey. The Moshiach that will someday develop from the house of Dovid, this was accomplished already in the house of Lavan. Yehuda was born to Yaakov in Lavan’s house, and that was the potential seed of Moshiach.
Cradle of Civilization
וְצֹאן – I acquired flocks. Who was that flock that Yaakov acquired? וְצֹאן אֵלּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל. The Jewish nation is called the flock of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the tzon kodashim; we’re compared to a kosher flock of sheep. It means that the whole future of the Am Yisrael throughout the generations, the multitudes of kosher men and women, of pious and kindly people who are gentle as lambs, grew out of the greatness Yaakov achieved in the house of Lavan.
The possuk continues וְעֶבֶד, that’s Moshe eved Hashem, the most important individual to appear on the face of the earth. Moshe was already present in the house of Lavan. That young family was so great that it was worthy of a Moshe, the greatest man who would ever live. In the house of Lavan, Yaakov gained a Moshe Rabeinu; he gained a nation that is worthy of the highest, most successful of all people.
וְשִׁפְחָה, one of the greatest women who ever appear on the face of this earth, that is Rus, who called herself shifchasecha, a maidservant (Rus 2:13). She declared that she is a handmaiden, she is ready to serve, and from her would come forth the house of Dovid.
All the perfection that Yaakov achieved was already wrapped up in the seed that was planted in that house, not in the house of Yitzchok and Rivkah where Yaakov Avinu was at first. Not in the house of Shem v’Eiver either. No. He acquired his true perfection in the most unlikely place, in the house of Lavan.
A Paragon Of Virtue
Now, Lavan was a very difficult father-in-law to live with. A shver like Lavan can be a big pain even if he lives in Australia and you’re in Brooklyn. But to live in his house? That’s not easy. Yaakov was suffering from his father in law, the middos of Lavan and the lies and the treachery of Lavan, and Yaakov was taking it, he was tolerating it not for one week, for weeks and months and years.
If you have an employer and the employer cheats you out of your salary week after week and he does it with every kind of mean trickery, it is a masterpiece of good behavior if you can remain civil to him for a month, six months a year. Yaakov took it in the best possible manner for so many years.
As much as Lavan cheated Yaakov and wronged him at every step, he behaved towards Lavan with the utmost loyalty. הָיִיתִי בַיּוֹם אֲכָלַנִי חֹרֶב – By day the heat consumed me, וְקֶרַח בַּלָּיְלָה – and the frost at night (Vayeitzei 31:40). Yaakov was burned by the heat, but he wouldn’t forsake the sheep in order to seek a shady spot to protect himself. In the cold frosty nights, he could have crept into his tent to save himself from being frozen. It’s cold sometimes at night in Padan Aram, very cold, and Yaakov didn’t have a stove to keep him warm. He could have crept into his tent and pulled ten blankets over him and forgotten about the outside world. But he didn’t; he couldn’t because he was working for someone else; he had a boss. It was a tremendous test of Yaakov’s character and he passed it with flying colors.
Lavan Was Not Yisro
And that’s how he became great. It’s like sandpaper on wood. I imagine that it’s not easy for furniture to be sanded down; you have to apply pressure and rub back and forth, back and forth. But that’s how it becomes polished; all the rough edges are smoothed out by means of that pressure. Character is the same as wood. Perfection of the mind, perfection of character, is not gained easily. We need so many things to sandpaper us, to make us smooth and easy to deal with. To make us successful people; people who are good-natured, calm and patient and forgiving, we need that friction to sand us down. So Hashem sends things upon you. He sends you people to sand you down.
And now you know why there was a Lavan! It wasn’t an accident. You know, Lavan could have been a man like Yisro who was hospitable and pleasant; a philosopher, a man who was practicing all the mitzvos of the seichel, of the Chovos Halvovos. Why not?
No! Hashem placed Lavan there intentionally so that when Yankev should come to Padan Aram, he’d find Lavan who would cheat him at every step. It’s wrong to think that Lavan happened to be there, and despite such an obstacle still Yaakov rose to meet the ordeals, he rose to the occasion and became great. No! Lavan was put there originally to make Yaakov great.
Yaakov understood! He understood that Hakodosh Boruch Hu was putting opportunities before him and because he understood that, that’s why he became great and he achieved all the perfection that accrued to him and that would benefit his posterity forever.
That’s the real pshat of the Chazal that Rashi brings “עִם לָבָן גַּרְתִּי וְתַּרְיַג מִצְוֹת שָׁמַרְתִּי – I dwelt with Lavan and I kept the Torah”. Now people say a pshat, “I lived with a rasha and despite that I kept the taryag mitzvos.”But learn now the real pshat. I lived with a rasha and because of that, because of the way I lived with him, that’s how I became what I became.” That’s how we became the nation of Hashem that still keeps the taryag mitzvos.
Now, it was spoken here at length more than once about the famous statement, ma’aseh avos siman labonim – it means that the lives of our forefathers, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov were prophecies for the future. And therefore we study the incidents of their lives as related in the Torah and how they reacted to them with the understanding that they are models for what will happen to their posterity.
And so we understand that this process of גַּם אֶת זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹקִים – Hashem made one opposite the other is a process that Hakodosh Boruch Hu made for the Jewish nation. Avrohom and Nimrod, Yaakov and Lavan, Yosef and eishes Potiphar, those are only examples. Actually it’s us. That’s what we’re learning now, that Hakodosh Boruch Hu plans our careers in the same way.
It means that just like our forefathers, we are constantly being given opportunities to attain greatness by means of the situations Hakodosh Boruch Hu purposefully places us in.
The Lost Yosefs
Only that what happens? We’re not prepared for it at all because we don’t understand the ways of Hashem in this world! That’s why so many people allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the opposition and they go lost. So many Avrohoms are going lost constantly. How many Yosefs finally did yield? We only know the successes. The failures are not known to us.
So many Yankevs failed with their fathers-in-law. They could have chosen greatness; Hakodosh Boruch Hu set the stage for them by giving them difficult people, difficult situations as opportunities to become great.
Life Of Elevators
Now, this has to be explained and so we will quote from the Mesillas Yesharim. At the beginning of the first chapter of his great work he makes an important statement and we have to make our ears k’afarcheses, like funnels, to catch the following information: כָּל עִנְיָנֵי הָעוֹלָם נִסְיוֹנוֹת הֵם לָאָדָם – all the matters of this world are tests for man, everything is a test.
That’s a very important statement but first we should understand the word nisyonos. וְהָאֱלֹקִים נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם (Bereishis 22:1) – it means Elokim uplifted Avraham. “נִסָּה” is a cousin of “נִשָּׂא” which means to raise up. It means that when Hakodosh Boruch Hu sends a nisayon, it’s intended as an opportunity to elevate one’s self to become more perfect; to achieve that for which we were created. That’s why we’re in this world. We’re not here to remain in one place; we’re here to make progress, to become better. And all of the things that come across our path in this life are for that purpose.
No matter what happens, no matter what event transpires, no matter whose path you cross, it’s for one purpose, to test you. That’s included in hashgachah pratis. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is concentrating on every one of the Am Yisrael day and night forever – that’s all He does – and everything that He’s doing is planned for your perfection. And the way you react to that test, that is your success in life. Every person that is sent to you is a test. Let’s say the person is bothersome, he is arrogant, he is a bore, he is not too smart, and nevertheless you utilize the opportunity to treat him properly, you have consideration for him and at the end when he goes away he thinks “that is a great guy”, he has a good opinion of you, so you have passed the test and he was a gift. By choosing properly you will acquire a shleimus, a perfection, that will stay with you forever.
Life on The Rottiserie
Now there are all kinds of improvement, all forms of shleimus. We need improvement in patience. Yes, we have to learn patience. We need improvement in how we treat others. We need improvement in zerizus. We have to learn alacrity, to overcome indolence and lethargy. We need improvement in kindliness, in generosity. We need improvement in learning how to keep our mouths closed. A man has so many facets to his character and each one has to be smooth and solid. And that’s why Hashem is on the job. He’s sending you all types of people, all types of situations, that are capable of perfecting you.
We can compare it to, let’s say, you buy a duck and you want it well done. So you hang it up on the rotisserie and the spit turns above the fire so that the duck should be well roasted in every cranny, every corner. That’s why it spins; it turns constantly so it should be well done, so that no raw spots should remain.
Hakodosh Boruch Hu puts us through life on the rotisserie. He’s turning us this way and that way, giving us every opportunity, all types of “reshaim” to deal with so that we should be well done. But not only reshaim in the sense of Lavan. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re contending with evil men. If you hear this, don’t apply it in the wrong way. Bara tzadikim u’bara reshaim is only an example – that’s when you see it more clearly. But “He created one opposite the other” means everybody! People are different from one another — sometimes a righteous man has to contend with another righteous man too — and those differences were all planned.
Your ‘Wicked’ Siblings
That’s why you start out life as a boy, as a girl, because first you’re being tested, how do you behave towards your brothers and sisters? That’s an opportunity to sand down a lot of rough edges you have. You shouldn’t pass up that nisayon; you won’t forever be in one house with them. When you leave your parents’ house, the opportunity is gone forever.
So if you’re still young, still unmarried, you’re still in a house full of siblings, do your best to be successful with them. If you can get along with them, you gain the perfection for which that opportunity was created. Your brothers and sisters were placed there just for that. Hakodosh Boruch Hu chose just the right ones, with all those idiosyncrasies and quirks of nature, to give you opportunities to no end.
And also a father and mother. A father and mother are great tests. Not only so that you should fetch a glass of water for your father. Of course you should always say, “Ma, I want to serve tonight. You sit at the table. Let me have the mitzvah.”A yeshiva boy too. No harm if the son volunteers sometimes to wash the dishes. But more than kibud av v’eim, it’s how you deal with your parents every day. It’s not always easy but the wise son and the wise daughter rise up to the occasion. And that’s why these parents were given to you.
The Perfect Wife
And one day you’ll be married and another opportunity comes. A wife is an opportunity and a husband is too. Marriage is given in order for a person to gain shleimus. That’s what eizer kenegdo means. He has the help of someone who is against him and she has the help of someone who is against her. Because a wife and a husband are two different kinds of people, two different natures.
A wife is not always honey. There’s sometimes a sting too. It’s only the Torah that’s compared to the perfect wife. The Torah is טוֹב וְלֹא רָע כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיה (Mishlei 31:12); only the Torah does good and no harm all the days of her life. But a flesh and blood wife is human. So the foolish husband says, “With this wife, I can’t make it. I just can’t with her.” But Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “Look, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been in this business for a long time and you can trust Me – that’s the one made especially for you. She’ll test you, she’ll nag you, she’ll burn the supper sometimes, she’ll burn your feelings too, but that’s your success in life. That’s the great opportunity of life.
When you become a mother-in-law or you become a daughter-in-law and you’re being tested. So what does the thoughtless daughter-in-law say? “If I had a different mother-in-law then things would be different but with this woman I can’t get along.” Oh no! This woman is the perfect one for you. Hashem chose her especially for you! What does the mother-in-law say? “That’s what my son had to choose?! Of all the fish in the sea, this is the one?!” And so both of them fail the test. It’s a test!
A daughter-in-law, she may have a difficult mother-in-law and she bears it, she tolerates the burden and always smiles, she’s always speaking with diplomacy, with kindness, then she is going to gain the full measure of shleimus, that perfection for which the situation was created.
Landlords and Neighbors
So let’s say you have a landlord and it seems to you that he’s the meanest fellow in the world. He wants to raise the rent. Now had you been a landlord, what you would have done is a different question, but you imagine he’s not being fair with you. And therefore the question is what do you do about it. So the first thing is and the most important thing is to know he’s put there for you.
In some cases a man has a neighbor or neighbors who are there for the purpose of affording him opportunities; all types of opportunities. Opportunities to resist influence. Opportunities to be kind. Opportunities to be a mivateir, to overlook things. So you say, “Well, if I had different neighbors. If I could move someplace else.” No, no, that’s dodging your responsibility because all these people who cause you trouble are put there for your benefit. Hakodosh Boruch Hu has foreseen what’s going to happen in your life and He’s making use of His great principle of zeh le’umas zeh.
Now, the examples and opportunities are endless; I’d like to talk to you more about the subject, but my time is up. I have work to do and I’m working overtime now. But we must not leave out one important point. All of our talking tonight won’t mean much unless we add a certain ingredient into the recipe; there is a certain ingredient which is essential in this matter, and that is the ingredient of emunah.
Emunah! The great men understood that nothing happens by itself. They understood that every phenomenon is occasioned by Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and that’s why instead of being angry at what happened to them, instead of complaining, they understood that it was a gift to be utilized, and they rose to the occasion and made full use of it. And that’s why they succeeded. Not in spite of the other person but because of them. They understood that it was all planned, and that it was planned on the principle of gam es zeh leumas zeh asah Elokim.
Whenever we are confronted by difficult people and difficult situations, we have to realize they’re put there for our benefit. All of us are being put through these tests in order to have us well done. We’re in the rotisserie and we’re turning exactly where Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants us to turn, turning to face exactly who He wants us to face. And if we utilize our lives properly, we become perfect in every facet of our character. We rise to the occasion by using our free will choice in the best possible way. And that’s why we are here in this world.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
Living With the Lesson
This week I will practice living with the Torah principle of zeh le’umas zeh, recognizing that every difficult person I come across was placed there by Hakodosh Boruch Hu for my own perfection.
Every day this week I will bli neder choose one “difficult” person in my life and I will deal with him or her with the awareness that Hakodosh Boruch Hu put that person there for me with the intention of perfecting my character and preparing me for Olam Habo.