V’etchanan: What Comes From God

ancient_jerusalemFor what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand as is the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him?

Deuteronomy 4:7

Should one only call out for the “big things”? To think that prayer to God is only for the “big things” is a big mistake! We must turn to God for help and understanding in everything we do.

The Chazon Ish, a great rabbi, cited the Talmud which relates that Rav Huna had 400 barrels of wine that spoiled. His colleagues told him to do some soul-searching regarding the cause of this loss. Rav Huna asked, “Do you suspect me of having done anything improper?”

The Sages responded, “Do you suspect God of doing something without just cause?” They then told him that he was not giving his sharecropper the agreed upon portion of the crop.

“But, he is a thief!” Rav Huna protested. “He steals from me. I have a right to withhold from him.”

“Not so,” the Sages said. “Stealing from a thief is still theft” (Talmud Bavli, Berachos 5b).

“Suppose,” the Chazon Ish said, “that something like this would occur today. The search for the cause would be whether the temperature in the room was improper or the humidity too high or too low. Few people would search for the cause within themselves, in their ethical behavior. We should know that God regulates everything except for our free will in moral and ethical matters. As with Rav Huna, nothing happens without a cause.”

Dvar Torah for Parashat Va’ethannan
from Twerski on Chumash, by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
quoted by Rabbi Kalman Packouz in “Shabbat Shalom Weekly”

I agree that we should turn to God with all our matters, large or small, but I wonder if every single thing that happens to us was caused by God to teach us a lesson. What can we learn from the flat tire we get while driving to an important meeting and dressed in our best clothes? What should we gather from being caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella, stubbing our toe, tripping over a crack in the sidewalk, catching a cold? Does every single event that happens, even down to the tiniest detail have to be ordained in Heaven?

I don’t know. I suppose it could. On the other hand, maybe sometimes things happen and they have no meaning. If I go down to a ridiculously small level, does it matter if I choose to wear black or white socks today? Is there going to be some consequence one way or the other? Is there a moral lesson I should learn if I get the flu or did I just get the flu? If I’m in business and should have a bad year, is that the result of some moral or ethical fault of which I’m guilty, or is it the consequence of the current economy and all businesses like mine are suffering?

Regardless of the cause of our fortunes or misfortunes (and believers are taught that everything we have comes from God), it certainly wouldn’t hurt to turn to God in good times and in bad, and call to Him for He is always near, even when we don’t feel as if He’s near.

…fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer…

Romans 12:11-12 (NASB)

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

James 5:13-15 (NASB)

praying-apostleThe verses in the Bible exhorting the advantages of prayer are all but endless, so I offer only a few examples. But it doesn’t answer the question about the nature and cause of each and every circumstance we find ourselves in. When raising small children, we try to make the consequence of misbehavior happen immediately after the misbehavior, so they’ll connect the two and learn to avoid the misbehavior. It’s easy to get the idea that God does the same thing. But then again…

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil. Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.

Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 (NASB)

In fact I believe that God deliberately delays providing the consequence upon the sinner, giving him or her time to repent and to change their behavior.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)

In some ways, it might be more merciful of God if He was to discipline and chastise us each and every time we mess up right when we mess up, kind of like swatting a dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper when it does its business on the living room carpet. Then, like a dog or a small child, we’d see the obvious and inescapable pattern between certain of our actions and the painful things that happen right afterward.

But unlike the commentary I quoted above, God just doesn’t seem to arrange our lives that way, at least not all the time. We are left then, wondering which consequence is a moral lesson and which is only a random event.

We don’t know.

But what if we pretended that everything we experience is an immediate communication from God to us? This could be horribly misused and sometimes people blame themselves without reason because they were the victim of a tragic accident or a terrible crime. You can’t blame a five-year old boy because he was killed in a drive-by shooting while standing on a street corner with his Dad waiting for the light to change. You can’t blame a forty-four year old woman who has lived a life of impeccable health who is diagnosed with breast cancer.


praying_at_masada…but what if regardless of whether we think an event has come from God or not, we turned to Him anyway? What if after having a productive day at work, you turned to God and thanked Him? What if after learning that the cost of repairing your car’s sudden breakdown will empty your savings account, you turned to God and begged for His help? What if, day in and day out, you turned to God, with praise and with petition, in happiness and in anguish?

What if?

Life happens. Sooner or later, something good will happen to you. Sooner or later something bad will happen to you. Sooner or later, nothing will happen to you and you’ll be really bored. You live, you laugh, you bleed, you breathe, you cry, you get angry, you get frustrated, you feel depressed, you are overjoyed, and everything else.

That’s your life. That’s from God. Talk to God about it. Ask Him Why? Ask Him How? Say “Thank you.” Say “I’m sorry.” You know your life. You know what’s happening. You know what to say. Just turn to God and say it.

And then listen.

Good Shabbos.

68 days.

2 thoughts on “V’etchanan: What Comes From God”

  1. I think scripture informs us that everything comes from the Holy One, but we can misinterpret the meaning, as in those who believed a man was blind because of his or his parent’s sin. The issue is so much to discover the reason, but that the works of heaven be manifest in us, no matter what the reason.

  2. …but we can misinterpret the meaning, as in those who believed a man was blind because of his or his parent’s sin.

    My point exactly.

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