Three weeks ago, on Tisha B’Av, we read a verse in the book of “Eicha” which one might think contradicts a basic tenet of our faith: “Both Evil and good do not emanate from the Almighty”. How can this be? Do we not believe that everything comes from Heaven?! The explanation is given by our sages in the midrash (Dvarim Raba, 4:3): “Rabbi Elazar said: when G-d uttered the verse,’behold I place before you this day a blessing and a curse’, at the same time, the following verse was also said: ‘Both evil and good do not emanate from the Almighty’, rather the evil comes from the one who does evil and the good from the one who does good.” We will expound upon this later.
We often hear people who are suffering through difficult times say: “What can I do? Everything comes from G-d. This must be for the best.” At first glance, this is a praiseworthy attitude which expresses a very high level of faith in G-d. Such a person has accepted G-d’s decrees upon mankind. Here alizes that there are no mere coincidences or “pot luck” in this world,and that everything emanates from the Almighty.
However, upon closer inspection, we find that this is in essence a distorted type of faith. For this person does not contemplate his deeds and say: I have sinned, and because of this has misfortune come my way. Rather, like a parrot, he comforts himself by uttering cliches, without examining the inner recesses of his heart. And so what such a person is actually saying is:”This misfortune comes from G-d, and I have no control over it.” With this, he terminates his “spiritual accounting” without examining the real causes of his suffering. In the scheme of things, such a person takes little responsibility for his situation. By making G-d out to be the “heavy”, man becomes nothing more than a helpless pawn, and there is no real justice.
“Forcing G-d’s Hand”
And so we have the passage in Eicha, “Both evil and good do not emanate from the Almighty”. This verse tell us that we must not throw the blame onto G-d for our misfortunes. For the moment that G-d said at Mount Sinai: “Behold, I am placing before you this day a blessing and a curse”, he placed before us the freedom of choice between good and evil, between whether we will be blessed or cursed. From that moment on, the blessing and curse come automatically, via the actions of man
We can see an almost extreme example of how this concept works. The person who brings his first fruit offering proclaims the following: “We have done what You,G-d, have decreed upon us. Now do what is incumbent upon you to do.” (Rashi, Dvarim, 26:15) The question that begs to be asked is: How can we, mere mortals, demand from the Creator of the Universe to do what is incumbent upon Him? Is this not “chutzpah”? However, this is precisely the idea behind, “both evil and good do not emanate from the Almighty.” If we fulfill what is requested of us, we can actually demand that G-d fulfill His part of the bargain, and bestow upon us the goodness He promised. Not only can we demand it, but we can even decree upon Him right back to do what He promised, for He has no choice, so to speak.
The Sin Which Causes Jews to Be Killed
Just as this holds true for the individual Jew, so it is the case in the national sphere as well. We must understand that when the Jewish People suffer, it is forbidden for us self-righteously to proclaim: “It is punishment from the Heavens”, or “So is the will of G-d.” Certainly,everything is from G-d, but it is necessary to realize that the punishment was brought upon ourselves because of our own deeds. This is the true meaning of the term, “measure for measure” – that the punishment is the direct result of man’s sin.
The implications for today are as follows: If the Ishmaelites are killing us, we cannot simply say, “everything is from G-d”; nor can we say, “we must strengthen ourselves in Torah and mitzvot.” This is not enough! We must look for the sin which is directly causing this punishment, and then act to correct it. Indeed, there is a sin of not expelling the evil gentiles out of the Land of Israel. If Jews are being murdered, it is a direct result of our failure to oust the murderers, which is simple halacha. There is the sin of handing over territories to murderers, and thereby standing idly by our brother’s blood. This is the sin which directly causes Jewish blood to be spilled. It is indeed a grave sin, one which is caused by lack of trust in G-d. It is only fear of the nations which causes us to make these terrible national decisions, bringing us closer to destruction. Jews are murdered for it, and we must remember that it is not a random form of punishment, but rather the direct result of a particular sin. By ignoring this and pointing to other general sins is not much better than saying: “It’s all from G-d”,without drawing practical conclusions to stop it.
Selective Soul Searching
To what can this situation be compared? To a thief who has been caught and placed in prison. He decides that since he has ended up in prison, he must be doing something wrong. And so he decides to examine his deeds, to do a”cheshbon nefesh”. After tiresome soul-searching, he reaches the conclusion that this punishment must have come about because he was not scrupulous enough in observing Shabbat, or keeping Kosher. It does not occur to him to place the blame for his misfortune on the direct action which caused the punishment to be meted out in the first place. Hence, he continues to steal.
By examining other deeds before correcting the sins that are directly causing the punishment, the entire concept of “tsheuva” becomes a big joke. Only when we correct that which is required of us to be corrected, will we receive the blessings and goodness mentioned in the Torah.