It May Be Bitter, But It Isn’t Bad
Acceptance is an essential strategy in coping with problems. Some problems are not
amenable to solution, and some form of acceptance is necessary if we are not to
succumb to frustration and anger.
There are two basic kinds of acceptance: one is called sovlanut, the other
savlanut. One means patience, the other refers to tolerance. Patience means
that I can wait for what seems to me to be a bad situation to change. Tolerance
means that even before the situation turns out the way that I want, I accept that
the way it is now is also for my own good. That's a higher level. Whatever Hashem
does is for the good. Even if I can't see how it's good right now, I have faith
that in the end it will be for the good.
I think it was the Chofetz Chaim who said that a person should never say that
something is bad—rather, he should say that it's bitter. It’s like medicine;
it can be bitter, but it's good for you. Whatever difficulty or hardship comes to
a person, he should see it as a medicine. It may be a bitter medicine, but it's
good for him.
The Gemora says in Pesachim that this world is not like the next.
In this world, we make the blessing, Hatov V'hamaitiv on good things,
Baruch Dayan Emes on the bad. In the next world, it’s all Hatov V'hamitiv.
This does not mean that in the next world it's only going to be good. Then there
wouldn't be any difference between this world and the next, since if everything
would be good in this world there would also be only one blessing to make. And if
that were the case, the Gemora should have said that this world is not like the
next, because in this world there is good and bad, whereas in the next world there
is only good.
Rather, what the Gemora means is that in the next world, when we look back in
retrospect on the whole picture of our lives, we will realize that what we thought
was bad was really good, and what we blessed Dayan Emes on should really
have been Hatov V'hamaitiv. But since we live in a world that is governed
by time, we have to bless Dayan Emes, according to our time-bound perception.
doesn't mean that He is the true judge; it means He is the judge of the truth. He
knows the best way to bring about the truth. Sometimes He has to bring it about
in a way that appears negative. There are many situations that if a person would
know the whole picture, he would realize that many things that appear to be negative
are in actuality positive. If a person would burst into an operating theater, and
not know where he is, and see a guy with a knife ready to amputate somebody's leg,
he would think the guy is some kind of murderer or sadist. But if he knows that
the guy is a doctor and he's performing an operation to save somebody, it's a different
The Chofetz Chaim says that somebody
who walks into a shul and hears, Shomer HaShem es kol ohavav
v'es kol ha reshayim…, and then he leaves. What did he hear? That G-d takes
care of all those who love Him and all the wicked! There's no justice in this world,
G-d takes care of the righteous and the wicked, indiscriminately. He didn't stay
long enough to hear, kol ha reshayim yashmid, all the wicked He will destroy.
He heard everything but one word, and so he has a distorted picture. Likewise, someone
who arrives late. He hears, es kol ohavav v'es kol hareshayim yashmid. G-d
destroys all those He loves and the wicked together. He missed the first word,
Shomer HaShem es kol ohavav…" All of us are in that situation. Either we've
come into the world a little bit late or a little bit early. So we don't see the
whole picture, and we have questions about injustice. If we would be around long
enough to see the whole picture we would see that it's all perfectly just.
Chanoch died at the age of 365. This
may sound like a ripe old age to us, but in an era when people were living into
their 900s, it was an untimely death, like a twenty- or thirty-year-old today. I'm
sure his family cried bitterly, “Such a young man, what a waste.” But Rashi tells
us why he died young. He was wishy-washy, and if he had continued to live, he would
have become wicked and lost his olam haba.
If we can keep in mind that our perception
is limited, that we don’t see the whole picture, it will be easier to accept situations
as they are. It may be bitter, but it isn’t bad.
This essay concludes our series on
coping with problems.