In Parshat Ki Tisa, Moshe asked Hashem the age-old question: “Please make your ways known to me so that I can understand you.” The Gemara in Brachot (7a) explained that Moshe wanted to know why good people seem to suffer at times and why bad people seem to prosper at times. From our perspective, the world may not always seem to be running in a fair manner. How do we reconcile the realities of a sometimes unfair world where we experience war, disease, hunger and suffering with the concept of a fair and compassionate God?
A few verses later, Hashem answers Moshe that no one can see His face. One can only see the back of God after He has passed. Translated as an analogy, we are instructed that our perspectives are limited. We cannot fully fathom what is taking place at the time the events are occurring. It is only in hindsight and retrospect that we can hope to make sense of the events and see how things were meant to be.
The story of Purim, in fact, is a prime example of such a way of perceiving historical events. Hashem is never mentioned at all in the Megillat Esther. If we look at each individual micro-event out of context they would all seem to be happening randomly without rhyme or reason. It is only when we look back at the story in retrospect, with the gift of hindsight, that we appreciate how all the players were set up to be in the right place at the right time. For example, Mordechai found favor in the king’s eyes because he discovered the plot to poison the king. Esther became the new queen of the Persian kingdom. She was chosen to be queen so that she could later intercede for the Jewish people. It is only when we read the last chapter that we have the realization that all of this could only have been orchestrated by Divine providence. There were too many coincidences for this to have happened by chance.
A mathematician once explained that when we flip a coin, the odds are fifty-fifty that it will land on heads. However, if we flip the coin a hundred times and it always lands on heads, we realize in hindsight that the coin must have been weighted or fixed so as to only land on heads. It is only after the fact that we realize there was no coincidence that took place.
R’ Yaakov Horowitz used the analogy of modern GPS systems that help us navigate to our destinations when we drive our cars. We follow the instructions as they give us block-by-block guidance to turn right or turn left. We would get confused if we saw the whole picture at once. We trust the GPS to get us to our final destination, one turn at a time. So too, we need to trust in Hashem to get us to where we need to be, one turn at a time, even if it looks like we are going through a bad neighborhood or a highway with a toll zone.
Rashi tells us that Hashem showed Moshe the knot on the back of His tefillin. When we look at a knot, the straps sometimes are intertwined and hidden. Yet, they eventually come out strengthened and firmer than before.
R’ Jonathan Rietti once lectured that there is no word in “lashon kodesh,” the original holy Hebrew language, for an accident. In modern Hebrew it is referred to as a “mikrah,” an occurrence. His point was that nothing happens by accident or by coincidence. There is always a Divine plan taking place in the background. Just as in the story of Purim, every instance was part of the bigger Divine puzzle. So too in our own lives, the people we interact with, the spouse we marry, the job opportunities that come along, etc., are all part of a bigger picture leading us in a specific orchestrated direction. It may not be evident when we look up close. However, in retrospect, when we pull back and look at the bigger picture, it all starts to make sense. We all end up where we were meant to be.
May Hashem give us the faith to believe that although we may not see the full picture of our ultimate course at any given moment, we can believe that in the bigger picture, with 20-20 hindsight, we will come out stronger and firmer as a result. We all end up where we were meant to be.
Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist in private practice. He is vice president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected]