Parashas Eikev

In this week’s parashah, Moshe tells the Jewish People (Devarim 8:2-5):
And you shall remember the entire way upon which Hashem your God led you these forty years in the wilderness. … Your garment did not wear out upon you, nor did your foot swell, these forty years. And you shall know in your heart that just as a man chastises his son, so Hashem your God chastises you.
Yalkut Shimoni, Torah 850, commenting on this statement, relates the following Rabbinic saying (also appearing in Berachos 5a): “If a person sees that afflictions are coming upon him, he should scrutinize his deeds, as it is written (Eichah 3:40), ‘Let us search and examine our ways, and return to Hashem.’” The Maggid explains that a person should not attribute any occurrence to chance, but instead should realize that everything he experiences is deliberately sent to him through Hashem’s wondrous providence. A person should therefore reflect on each occurrence he experiences to discern what message Hashem is sending him. Such reflection is called for not only regarding unusual events, but also regarding ordinary events such as clothes wearing out. Ordinary losses of this type are also due to our misdeeds. The proof is that during the entire forty-year period that the Jews spent in the wilderness, no one had his clothes wear out or his foot swell. From this we see that Hashem can prevent ordinary losses and impairments when He wishes. Accordingly, when a person suffers an ordinary loss or impairment, it is because Hashem deemed it necessary.
It is actually a tremendous act of graciousness on Hashem’s part, the Maggid says, that He sends us afflictions to stir us to mend our ways. For Hashem’s nature is to bestow blessing, and it is against His nature, so to speak, to impose afflictions. In this vein, David HaMelech declares before Hashem (Tehillim 16:2): “My good is not upon You.” David is saying that the punishments Hashem sends us for our good are not part of His natural mode of operation.
This idea is reflected in the following Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 24:2):
It is written (Iyov 1:21): “Hashem gave and Hashem has taken; may the Name of Hashem be blessed.” Whether Hashem is giving or taking, He always acts out of compassion. Moreover, when He gives, He does not consult with any being, but when He takes, He consults with His heavenly court.
The Maggid brings out the point with a parable. A rich storeowner had a poor relative. It was his regular practice, when this relative needed an item he sold in his store, to give it to him as a gift. And when his relative needed an item he did not have in his store, he would give his relative money to buy the item elsewhere, or he himself would go out to the marketplace to obtain the item. Here, the storeowner’s graciousness is truly impressive. For it is not so hard for a storeowner to give away some items he has on hand, but it involves special kindheartedness for him to go out and get items he does not have in order to give them away to someone else. Hashem is like the storeowner in this parable. It is His nature, as we said, to bestow blessing, as it is written (Tehillim 118:1): “Give thanks to Hashem for He is good, His kindness endures forever.” Blessing is the “merchandise” He keeps in His “store.” Yet, out of His great goodness, He created accusing angels that call men to justice in His heavenly court, leading Him to send us punishments to prompt us to return to the proper path, for our ultimate benefit.
In the era of the prophets, Hashem had less need to exercise His Attribute of Justice to chastise us with afflictions, for He would send us His prophets regularly to tell us what we needed to do to mend our ways, heal our spiritual maladies, and thereby save ourselves. But now, since we no longer have prophets among us, Hashem must take a different course. Now, when Hashem wishes to rebuke a person for evildoing, He sends him afflictions right away to prompt him to examine his deeds. And thus, Moshe tells us: “And you shall know in your heart that just as a man chastises his son, so Hashem your God chastises you.” That is, when a person feels anguish after undergoing afflictions, he should look into his heart to check whether he is anguished for the right reason and, if necessary, set his heart in the right direction. An afflicted person may feel anguish solely on account of the pain of the afflictions. But this is not the way of the wise. When a wise person suffers afflictions, he realizes that, in Shlomo HaMelech’s words (Shir HaShirim 5:2), Hashem is knocking at his door, trying to wake him up and get him to recognize his misdeeds. As our Sages say (e.g., Shabbos 55a), there is no affliction without sin. The wise person, too, feels anguish when he is afflicted, but his anguish is not on account of the pain of the afflictions, but on account of Hashem’s being displeased with his actions.
In this vein, Yirmiyahu declares (Eichah 3:39-40): “Over what shall a living man mourn? A bold man – over his losses?  [Rendering חטאיו as losses – cf. Melachim Alef 1:12.] Let us search and examine our ways, and return to Hashem.” Should a man mourn over a bodily injury or loss of money? Better he should mourn over his having strayed from the path that Hashem wishes him to follow, and then he should examine his ways and return to the proper path. 
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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