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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘TZ’

Helping Our Children Deal With Tragedy (Conclusion)

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

We are all aware of the terrible churban that recently took place in Yerushalayim’s Merkaz HaRav yeshiva, where eight precious neshamas were taken from us.

How can I explain and respond to my children when they ask why Hashem has punished these young innocent bachurim, who were the “cream of the crop?” What is going on in Eretz Yisrael (and in Sderot and Ashkelon in particular) is very frightening to kids, especially when young children are suffering so much.

How can we explain the right hashkafah to children who are questioning Hashem’s ways?

TZ

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Perhaps the simplest way of explaining “tzaddik v’ra lo” (loosely translated as, “Why bad things seemingly happen to good people”) is to frame things as many sifrei machshavah do in terms of a linear timeline. The underlying theme is that one cannot properly comprehend events unless they can view the entire time frame associated with that occurrence. There are many variations of a common mashal (analogy) used by our chachamim to drive home this concept.

A well-known one tells the story of a city dweller who needed to spend time in the fresh-air environment of a farm while convalescing from an illness. As he had no understanding of the farming cycle, he was shocked and distraught to see a beautiful field plowed. “Why are you making this grass into mud?” he asked. The farmer told him to be patient if he wants to understand things. Things really turned south when he saw the farmer throwing wheat seeds into the ground. More waste and insanity, he thought. Again, the farmer told him to be patient. The city dweller felt better when he saw beautiful sheaves growing, but that quickly dissipated when he saw the threshing and grinding. On and on the story goes until the city dweller finally saw freshly baked bread. At that point, it all made sense to him.

The nimshal is simple but profound. In order to understand things, we need to see a full story. In the case of the farmer, it was a six-month event. In the case of making a scrambled egg, it is a five-minute timeline (Why did you break those perfectly good eggs?) However, Hashem’s world is timeless and mere humans cannot understand events in this world – as the timeline of our lives is so short compared to Hashem’s eternity.

This would explain the dialogue between Moshe and Hashem after the sin of the egel (Golden Calf). Moshe asked Hashem, “Hodi’eini na es derachecha – Please make your ways known to me” (Shemos 33:13). The Gemara (Berachos 7a) explains that Moshe wanted to understand the age-old question of why so many righteous people suffer while it often seems that the wicked are prospering. This understanding was the “derech” of Hashem that Moshe wanted to understand. Hashem informed him, “Lo suchal lir’os es pa’nai – You shall not be able to see My face” (Shemos 33:20).

Several pesukim later, Hashem informed Moshe that He would permit him to see the “back” of Hashem. To see one’s face is to examine every detail of their being. Moshe wanted a clear understanding of what transpires in this world. Hashem denied his request, not because He did not wish to grant it to Moshe, but rather because it is simply impossible for a human to understand all the details of Hashem’s world.

Hashem was explaining to Moshe that humans have a limited life span, and cannot always understand Hashem’s world. We cannot see the “face” of Hashem, as we are unable to see the larger picture. Just as flying in an airplane affords people a different view of the earth, so too Hashem, in His infinite wisdom and global view, sees things in a way that we humans cannot. Hashem, however, did grant Moshe the ability to see things in retrospect – to see the “back” of Hashem.

It is still extremely difficult to make sense of such a terrible tragedy even with this insight. Therefore, it may be helpful to offer another thought that many sifrei machshavah expand on. This relates to the concept of an exemplary person fulfilling his or her life mission in a shorter period of time. Once that mission is completed, Hashem calls that neshamah back to the heavens.

Whatever twists and turns this discussion takes, one theme that parents should stress to their children is that after all is said and done, we must have emunah (faith) in Hashem. I do not think that we ought to tell our children that we can explain everything – because we cannot.

While writing this column, a mashal was dropped on me by my son. He asked for some driving directions. It turned out that my directions were in conflict with both GPS and MapQuest (gasp!) I told my son, “Trust me.” And since I have given him good driving directions over a period of 10 years, he did.

Ultimately, it all boils down to bitachon. And it may be helpful to explain to our children that, just like we trust our parents because we have a reservoir of good faith, so too we need to place our faith in Hashem – who provides for our every need.

The tragic event in Merkaz HaRav yeshiva is really a microcosm of the history of our people. From the initial sale of Yosef that was so hard to understand when it occurred (but eventually resulted in the salvation of Yaakov’s children) and throughout the many generations, we have gone through very difficult times filled with seemingly inexplicable tragedies. And what sustained us though all those difficult times was our faith in Hashem.

It is interesting to note that when Hashem informed Moshe that he cannot see His “face,” chazal tell us that Hashem showed Moshe the knot of the tefillin. I would like to suggest that the image of a kesher is one of two individual straps joining together to form a knot. What happens is that the two straps become hidden from view at times, and actually reverse direction at times. But both straps emerge as a stronger and firmer unit. Perhaps this was the deep understanding that Hashem shared with Moshe; that although humans cannot understand why bad things seemingly happen to good people, eventually we become stronger as a result of these events.

Helping Our Children Deal With Tragedy (Part I)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

We are all aware of the terrible churban that recently took place in Yerushalayim’s Merkaz HaRav yeshiva, where eight precious neshamas were taken from us.

How can I explain and respond to my children when they ask why Hashem has punished these young innocent bachurim, who were the “cream of the crop?” What is going on in Eretz Yisrael (and in Sderot and Ashkelon in particular) is very frightening to kids, especially when young children are suffering so much.

How can we explain the right hashkafah to children who are questioning Hashem’s ways?

TZ

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

There is a timeless Yiddish saying, “Vos es feilt in hasbarah, feilt in havanah,” that is probably most appropriate in analyzing your dilemma in responding to your child’s questions. Loosely translated, it expresses the stark truth that when we find it difficult to explain concepts to others (hasbarah means to explain, while havanah denotes understanding) it is often because we ourselves don’t understand them fully.

This adage often rings true in the arena of parenting, as so many of the challenges we face when raising our children are really issues that we as parents are in the midst of grappling with. So I guess we ought to discuss both of the following issues simultaneously: How do we process tragedies through a Torah lens, and how do we respond to the questions that our children pose in trying to understand them?

Since this is such a difficult subject I will start with the don’ts before the do’s, as it is a far easier place to begin.

Do not suppress the questions of your children – about this topic or any other.

Always keep in mind that you never solve anything by taking that easy route. As I often note, an unasked question is an unresolved one. Creating an environment where your child can freely ask you anything that is on his or her mind means that you are positioned to properly be mechanech him or her.

Do not be intimidated or frightened to admit that you don’t have “all the answers” – especially to questions as difficult as these. It will, in all likelihood, be very refreshing for your child to see that you are also finding this challenging. In fact, you will have the opportunity to model appropriate behavior when you are stumped or find yourself looking for answers that are over your pay grade – by posing the question to a rav, rebbitzen or gadol with whom you are comfortable. This can perhaps be done even in the presence of your child.

Do not verbalize or even imply that respectfully asking for answers to questions like these is disrespectful or represent a lack of emunah in Hashem. To the contrary, you ought to explain that looking to gain insight into the workings of Hashem is really a sign of closeness to Him.

It might not be a bad idea to mention that the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is one that has been asked by our greatest leaders and nevi’im over the centuries. According to the Gemara (Brachos 7a), when Moshe Rabbeinu implored Hashem, “Hodieini na es drachecha – Please make Your way known to me” (Shemos 33:13), Moshe wanted to understand the age-old question of why so many righteous people suffer while it often seems that the wicked are prospering. This was the “derech” of Hashem that Moshe wanted to understand.

In fact, according to Rashi, it seems that this was something Moshe had wanted to ask previously, and waited until the opportunity presented itself – namely when Hashem’s mercy was granted to the Jews when He forgave them for the sin of the eigel (golden calf). It would seem that Rashi was wondering why Moshe chose that specific time to ask Hashem for the understanding of His “derachim,” for this request – at least at first glance – does not seem to follow the logical thread of Moshe’s beseeching Hashem to forgive klal Yisrael.

What is noteworthy and perhaps worthwhile mentioning to your child is that a simple reading of those pesukim would indicate that even our greatest leader and navi, Moshe Rabbeinu, was told by Hashem that a full and complete understanding of His “derachim” cannot be granted to humans during their lifetime.

You may worry that your child (and you) may be distressed to find out that there are no easy answers to these questions. But in all likelihood, the fact that our greatest tzaddikim were preoccupied with these thoughts will be comforting to him or her and not leave them feeling like they are on the outside looking in just because they are bothered by these questions.

Next: Some practical things you can tell your children (the do’s) to help them get their hands around this most difficult matter.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/helping-our-children-deal-with-tragedy-part-i/2008/05/07/

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