Printable version



Humanity marches forward as each generation tries its best to cope with the enormous task of giving their young a positive upbringing. Unfortunately in the swarm of the everyday, we never really get a chance to appraise our success. Then there are those moments, hopefully for all of us, when a small gesture envelops you with a sudden rush of love. Pesach in the Rubin home is very much like thousands of other hiemisha homes, grandchildren climbing all over one another seeking attention from doting grandparents who are kvelling with the whole pageantry, whilst food is flying off the table, and over tired parents are slipping into deep sleep.

Last Yom Tov my great-granddaughter was rummaging thru my seforim when she came across a blue covered volume with an interesting title, “A Rabbi’s Journal”. If this sounds familiar that’s because it is, just look at the top of this article. The book was written years ago and is a collection of my early articles. As the sweet child (she is my great granddaughter after all) settled into a comfortable chair, book in hand, her uncle, my grandson, laughingly told her, ‘if you want to know everything that has happened to our family you’ll find it in that book. It even tells about the time Zeidy bought me trainers that flash (you have to read the book to understand).’  This innocent tableau of family closeness bought a small tear to my eye. As a writer, nothing can bring validation more than one’s own young grandchildren cuddling up with your books.

My family has long known that whatever happens in our lives, I will somehow milk it for a chapter or two in my ever growing Journal. So yes, I stand guilty as charged, and like all writers, I have used my family as walk on participants of my articles over the years. Having shared this writer’s secret allow me to share another one. Not everything that life sends ones way is spoken about, or more to the point, written. As the Kotzker Zt”l said: “Not everything that you know should you say, and not everything that you say should be written, and more to the point, not everything that is written should be read.” Life sends us all difficult moments, those dark challenges that seem intractable. We are living our own Journals, memories that we carry with us. Not all of them are positive with cheery smiles and happy feelings. Some seep into our minds unbidden and remind us of heart-wrenching episodes where everything seemed to be going wrong.

Let me share a Gemorah in Kesubos (33) that speaks to these inevitable times. The Gemorah speaks of the occasion when Nevuchadnetzar decreed that anyone who did not bow down to a certain statue would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Chananya, Misha’el, and Azaryah were righteous Jews who refused to do so.

Hashem responded to their self-sacrifice by sending the Malach Gavriel to save them. Gavriel not only cooled the furnace so that Chananya, Misha’el, and Azaryah remained unharmed, but he caused the area outside of it to become overheated so that those who threw them in were consumed by fire (Daniel 3).

Chazal goes on and mentions that if these three Tzaddikim would have been tortured and beaten, they would have not been able to withstand their challenge. They were able to jump into the fire immediately with no question, but elongated torment would have been something beyond their ability to withstand.

The Chiddushei Harim Zt”l asks why was it necessary to tell us this information, that the three Kedoshim would not have been able to withstand torture. What purpose does this added information serve? If anything, isn’t this shaming these holy souls and in some way minimizing their great efforts? However The Rebbe explains it is just the opposite, this information is given to give us all chizuk. Chazal are telling us that Heaven never sends a challenge too hard for us to withstand. Any situation that we don’t have the ability to overcome will never be used to test us. In Shomayim it was seen that these three great Sages would be able to decide to jump into the burning oven, it was a test that they could overcome. Torture would be beyond their tolerance level and therefor not a true test. Hashem wants us to face challenges and grow by overcoming them. Heaven never sends something that exceeds our abilities. This lesson is vital for all of us, Hashem doesn’t send us that which we can’t conquer, full stop!!

The Pilzeh Rebbe Zt”l, a grandson of the Chiddushei Harim shares a further interesting insight. In Parshas Behar we learn:

‘If a man will have no redeemer, but his means suffice and he acquires enough for its redemption.’ (25:26)

When a person finds himself in a difficult situation he should always be aware that Hashem sends nothing beyond our strength, and he should persevere in the knowledge that Hashem will help.

In life’s great tapestry we all face difficulties that may seem too dark to get past. Studies show that ‘deaths of despair’ are on the rise. These are deaths of people who despair of any hope and either drink themselves to death or worse. Yidden must know better, we must never lose faith, Hashem loves us, and there is nothing Shomayim doesn’t know and see. We can grow, we must grow. When everything seems beyond any hope, and you have run out of options, that is the moment to remind yourself that Hashem knows where you are. Everything is His plan, and if you are finding it hard, give yourself strength, because Hashem has already.