Title: 180 Rechov Yaffo: Bridge to a Bygone Era
Author: Dr. Meir Wikler
Publisher: Menucha Publishers
180 Rechov Yaffo contains 50 stories of emunah, bitachonand hashgachah pratisrelating to the well-known Yerusahlmi tzaddik, Rav Nochum Cohen, shlita. As in his many previous books, Dr. Wikler’s impressive skill as a writer and master storyteller shines through. While the subject matter pertains to the most serious elements of hashkafa, he manages to relate the stories with warmth and even humor. Each story is also introduced with a brief vortthat is perfectly suited to the story.
It is obvious from reading the book that Wikler expended much effort to ensure the accuracy of the stories. Likewise, in his admirable efforts to be accurate and not exaggerate, he emphasizes a number of times that he is not implying that every single one of Reb Nochum’s berachoswas always fulfilled. Clearly, the actual facts are impressive enough that there is no need for exaggeration.
There is, however, an overarching aspect of this book that is most impressive to me. I find that being emotionally involved on a daily basis in actively trying to bring about change in the fate of patients who have suffered from the trials and tribulations of a difficult life makes it especially challenging to “passively” accept that very fate as hashgachah pratis.
In a similar vein, Rabbi Pinchos Yehoshua HaCohain criticizes those community leaders who passively accept child and domestic abuse in the name of hashgachah pratis (i.e., this is obviously what Hashem wanted to happen). He cites Rav Yitzchak Hutner that the world of avodas Hashem “is divided into numerous arenas – each arena having its unique rules of operation… [R]ules that are appropriate for one are not applicable and even entirely inappropriate for the other.”
A chacham striving for self-control over his emotion to act vindictively against someone who wronged him should make use of the concept of hashgachah pratisto achieve this goal – as if the aggressor had no free-will and was compelled to wrong him.
“However, when we transfer to the arena of justice between man and his fellow, then the whole operating principle is that of personal responsibility, which is predicated upon the free choice of man. The tzaddik, who has just been victimized by a grand larceny and who accepts Divine Providence with a full heart, knows that it is for his benefit. Nevertheless, he will not thereby exempt the larcenist from the appropriate restitution!”
Wikler has amply demonstrated his masterful ability to balance seemingly incompatible forces in his successful parenting books (e.g., balancing structure and discipline with love and acceptance). Now he has done the same with the seemingly incompatible concepts of hashgachah pratis and the active attempt to change the course of someone’s life.
This is demonstrated both by the stories about Reb Nochum’s simultaneous embracing both of these concepts and by Wikler’s own deep and abiding admiration and respect for those who personify emunah, bitachonand hashgachah pratis.