Following Tisha B’Av Rabbi Elimelech Biderman spoke about consolation and said: “What consoles us? We still don’t have the Beis HaMikdash and we all still have our tremendous challenges and difficulties in life. So what is there to console us?” And he answered his question, saying that our consolation is knowing that everything – even the most difficult parts of our lives – as a nation, Am Yisrael, as a family, as an individual – even the most difficult parts of our lives are from Hashem. And everything that happens is therefore good. We may not see the goodness at the time, sometimes we never see it in this world – but everything is from Hashem, and everything is therefore ultimately good. And then Rabbi Biderman told the following true story which exemplifies in startling facts what he had just expressed in words.
In Europe, a few years before the horrific holocaust, there was a man named Baruch Frankel, z”l. He and his family, like so many others during that period, suffered from poverty. Even basic necessities like food, clothing and electricity were often hard to afford during that time. And so he decided to go to America and work there for a few years in order to overcome their financial difficulties. The plan was to go to the United States for three years, get a good paying job, or even start a business, and while he was there he would send money home to his family on a regular basis and at the same time, he would put money aside which, with Hashem’s help, at the end of the three years would be quite a respectable amount – enough for his family to live well in Europe, or even to come to America.
And so it was that Mr. Frankel left his family in Europe and went to America where he found a man to partner with, and just as he planned, they worked together for three years, each of them sending money home and also putting money aside in a solid savings account. At the end of the three years they made plans to go back home to Europe. The date was set, Mr. Frankel’s ticket was ready, and then suddenly, unexpectedly he received a shocking message from his family – his father, who he had also left behind when he traveled to America, had passed away. In those days, traveling from America to Europe took quite a long time, and so Mr. Frankel sat shiva for his father in America.
Having been in the U.S. for three years already, he knew many people and many came to console him as he sat shiva for his beloved father who he hadn’t seen for such a long time. Of course, among the many people who came to pay a shiva call right at the beginning was his partner. And then a couple of days later his partner came again to console him, and this time he brought with him several papers and documents which he asked Reb Baruch to sign. Mr. Frankel was so grief-stricken that he couldn’t put his full attention into what his partner said or what was written on the papers. And, after all, this man had been his partner for three years so there was no need to go into the details of what was written. Mr. Frankel’s mind and heart were filled with thoughts of his late father; business was not on him mind at all.
And so Mr. Frankel didn’t even read through the papers. He more or less heard his partner’s explanation of what the papers were and why he had to sign them, and he did just that. He signed all of the papers and handed them over to his partner. His partner stayed a while longer to comfort Mr. Frankel and then he left.
When Mr. Frankel got up from shiva and was preparing to return to his family in Europe, one of the major things he had to do was to withdraw his three years’ savings from his bank account. He went to do that shortly before his scheduled departure and was shocked to discover that his bank account was empty! He had signed away all the money that he had saved up during his three years of arduous work in America to his ‘partner.’ Nothing was left, and his partner was nowhere to be found.
What to do? After being away for three years, after leaving his family alone while he was working in America, how could he go back penniless? He thought and thought about this terrible, unexpected situation and came to the conclusion that the only logical thing to do was to stay in America and start working all over again. As much as he missed his wife and children, he couldn’t go back now. It would be too difficult to go back and face his family and explain how his three years absence was for naught. Of course he would have to tell them about what happened, but at least he would also be able to say that he’s extending his time in America so that he can once more hopefully earn enough money to help his family in Europe.
And so it was that he contacted his wife and told her what happened, and explained that he would be staying in America for another two years in order to once more, with Hashem’s help, make enough money to enable his family to live well in Europe and maybe even eventually come to live in America.
And then he once more started looking for employment, for the best way to make as much money as he could so that he would be able to return to his family as soon as possible, and support them on a decent level. Time went by, he missed his family, he missed his father, and he worked and worked and worked. Of course, he never again heard from or about his ex-partner, and didn’t even try to find him as he knew it would be a hopeless effort. He tried not to think about him or about the terrible crime that had been done to him. How indecent to take advantage of a man’s sorrow as he mourns for his father, and steal money he had worked so hard to earn for three whole years.
But Mr. Frankel knew that thinking about it wouldn’t help him or anyone else. The whole thing was in the past and though it was so painful and unjust, he tried not to think about what happened because that would only cause more suffering with no benefit at all. So he strengthened himself with the thought that everything is from Hashem for the good, even when we don’t see the goodness, and he did his utmost to be positive and hopeful and to think of better times when he finally would be reunited with his family.
Time went by, and more time, and Mr. Frankel worked and worked, sending money home on a regular basis while also putting money in the bank. And more time went by, and more time, and he even eventually became an American citizen. And then after about two years, he once more had a nice amount of savings in the bank, and was ready to go back to his family in Europe. And he did.
What a wonderful reunion it was – after so many years, so much hard work and so much anguish. They felt as if three years of their family life had been stolen from them. But it was behind them and now, baruch Hashem they were once more together. None of them understood why that terrible episode had to be part of their lives, why they had to suffer so unnecessarily. But they were good people, they had emunah, deep faith, and they believed, they knew that even though the goodness was hidden, certainly this, too, was for the good.
More years went by, not many, maybe two or three and then the horrific Holocaust began. It was clear to them that things would only get worse and they wanted so much to escape – to leave, to survive! So many Jews then wanted to flee but for most it was impossible because the laws were strict and emigration was forbidden.
And so millions of Jews were trapped there to be helpless victims of the monstrous Holocaust. Millions.
But Mr. Frankel and his immediate family were able to leave because he had unexpectedly been in America for a long enough time to become an American citizen and thus were allowed to leave Europe.
And so it was that Mr. Frankel and his wife and children were the only ones of his entire family to escape and survive. Because his treacherous partner had stolen all of his money. And that led to Mr. Frankel’s becoming a United States citizen. Yes, that ruthless theft was for the good!
And so, continued Rabbi Biderman, whenever we are faced by difficulties, even great, unexplainable difficulties, let us console ourselves by reminding ourselves that everything is from Hashem, and so everything is for the good.