It is very easy to be G-d fearing. It does not take a whole lot of effort to be terrified of the Almighty, who is quite capable of punishing those who anger Him. The Torah is full of warnings of what our lot will be if we disobey His will. Being petrified of someone mightier than you who can turn shatter your world in a blink is a very natural reaction.
But loving Hashem with all your soul – in other words unconditionally, despite what you feel is undeserved and unequivocal tragedy – is the true epitome of faith. When you find yourself in a horrific “why me” situation, and you can still love G-d the Judge and accept His degrees – albeit with a shattered heart – saying with sincerity gam zu l’tova this too is for the good that is the ultimate declaration of genuine emunah.
It is said of the sage Rabi Akiva that he smiled as the Romans were torturing him to death, and as he started to die, he recited the Shema. His bewildered talmidim asked him, “Rebbe, even here, now?”
Rabi Akiva replied, “All my life I recited the Shema, with its command to love God with all your heart and all your soul. I worried if I would ever have the opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah in its entirety. Now I have been blessed to love God with all my soul. Shouldn’t I be happy?!”
Perhaps when disaster befalls us, Hashem is giving us an opportunity to take an exam that He knows we will ultimately pass, and that the reward for doing so is beyond our mortal comprehension.
I know that I struggle (and I suspect many others do) with the concept of embracing Hashem so wholeheartedly. As a child of Holocaust survivors I find it very hard to say gam zu l’tova, when I look at the fact that six million Jewish men, women children and infants were butchered. It’s not like they passed away peacefully in their sleep.
Many starved to death, died of exposure, succumbed to disease, were hanged, shot, subjected to horrific medical experiments, were gassed, or burned alive.
But I try to balance this awareness with a constant hakarat hatov for the good in my life and in the lives of those who I hold dear.
And everyday I pray for the unconditional emunah and bitachon that is so elusive. Life is so much easier when you can wholeheartedly embrace the reality Hashem has bestowed on you. Only then can you life your life be b’simcha, consoled and fortified with the belief that this too was for the best.
My Rosh Hashanah bracha to my dear readers is that you find your way to Hashem despite your troubles and tzarus. It is only through unwavering acceptance of His will that one can attain true happiness and peace of mind.