Shabbos Chazon – Megillas Eichah

In Eichah 1:5 it is written: “Her oppressors rose to the fore, her enemies became tranquil, for Hashem afflicted her on account of her many sins. Her sucklings went into captivity before the enemy.” The Midrash expounds (Eichah Rabbah 1:32):
“For Hashem afflicted her.” We might think it was for nothing. The verse therefore tells us “on account of her many sins” [i.e., all the punishment was completely deserved].
I present here a synopsis of the Maggid’s commentary on this Midrash; the commentary also explains the idea behind the statement in the verse that our “oppressors rose to the fore.”
The Maggid interprets the Midrash as rebutting the argument our enemies advance to explain why we have been exiled and have suffered so greatly. Our enemies claim that Hashem has simply abandoned us and removed His protection and providence from us. They think He has cast us off like a master who angrily throws his servant out of the house. They believe that they can therefore do with us as they please, just as one may toy with cast-off property, and Hashem will not intervene. According to them, all the evil they perpetrate upon us stems from their own desire and will, while Hashem occupies Himself with other matters. But their argument is ill-founded, the Midrash says, and their theory is false.
As Yirmiyahu puts it (Eichah 3:22): “Hashem’s kindnesses have not come to an end, and His mercies have not ceased.” On the contrary, everything emanates from Divine providence and is always for our benefit. Hashem subjects us to harsh afflictions to heal our souls from the injuries caused by our sins. The bitter medicine of affliction purges our iniquities and makes us whole again. All that happens to us comes from Hashem – in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in justice. Everything that at first glance appears bad is really for the ultimate overall good. Just as He is diligent in blessing us when we deserve it, so too He is diligent in afflicting us when we need it. Whatever happens to us stems from Hashem’s loving care and is really what is best for us. It is not at all as our enemies say: that we suffer because Hashem has stopped watching over us.
The Maggid brings out the point with a parable. A certain man’s only son fell sick, and the man sent for the doctor to perform a blood-letting on him. The doctor told the father to go out of the house so the son could not see him. The father put his trust in the doctor and left the boy to his care, for he could do nothing for his son himself. The father went outside, and when the son saw that no one was there to help him, he had no choice but to endure everything the doctor did to him. After the doctor had finished, the father returned to the house. When the boy saw his father, he screamed out bitterly: “Father! This savage attacked me for no reason and hurt me viciously!” The father slyly hollered at the doctor: “Get out of here, you savage!” He then took the doctor out of the house, and followed after him.
The boy thought his father had gone out to give the doctor a sound beating. Upon looking out of the window, however, he saw his father give the doctor a hefty sum of money and send him home with a warm farewell. Whereupon the lad screamed out to his father: “You are repaying bad with good? Now I see that you too have cruelly turned against me – you paid for my maiming seven times over.” The father answered: “Don’t be foolish! You should realize that what he did to you was not at all bad. On the contrary, it was of great benefit: it was to cure you and relieve you of your pains.”
This parable explains why our “oppressors rose to the fore.” On the surface it appears that Hashem is paying a nice compensation to those who do us evil. However, just as in the parable, our suffering is actually a cure. It all emanates from Hashem’s individualized providence over us. The suffering is necessitated by our sorry condition: “Hashem afflicted her on account of her many sins.”
This is the message of the Midrash with which we began. The Midrash says: “We might think it was for nothing.” We might think that suffering came upon us because Hashem stopped watching over us and abandoned us to happenstance, as our enemies claim. The Midrash then says that we see from the verse that this is not so. Rather, everything that happens to us emanates from finely-tailored providence, in order to purge us of our sins. The proof is that our enemies are well paid: they are at the fore. In truth, they truly deserve their pay, for they are doing us a real favor, and fulfilling well the mission the Creator gave them.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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