April 11, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 11, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Gam Zu L’Tova in Action

Gam Zu L’Tova—This Is Also For the Good

It is a very well-known story, but we believe it is often misunderstood. Ta’anit 21a relates (William Davidson translation of the Talmud):

And why did they call him Nachum of Gam Zu? The reason is that with regard to any matter that occurred to him, he would say: This too is for the good [gam zu letova]. Once, the Jews wished to send a gift [doron] to the house of the emperor. They said: Who should go and present this gift? Let Nachum of Gam Zu go, as he is accustomed to miracles.

Under Roman control, Eretz Yisrael’s Jews periodically bribed the government to mitigate the terrible Roman oppression. The trip to the Emperor’s palace in Rome was fraught with danger since a Jew transporting precious metals and stones in the Roman Empire could easily be robbed and abused. Therefore, the Sages chose Nachum Ish Gam Zu, whom Hashem supported with miracles, to execute this exceedingly difficult task.

They sent with him a chest [sifta] full of jewels and pearls, and he went and spent the night in a certain inn. During the night, these residents of the inn arose and took all of the precious jewels and pearls from the chest, and filled it with earth. The next day, when he saw what had happened, Nachum of Gam Zu said: This too is for the good. When he arrived there, at the ruler’s palace, they opened the chest and saw that it was filled with earth. The king wished to put all to death. He said: The Jews are mocking me. Nachum of Gam Zu said: This too is for the good.

The gift appeared to backfire terribly. The Roman emperor understood the gesture as a slap in the face and even an indication of rebellion. It was not beyond the Roman emperor to decree the Jewish people’s destruction (see Avoda Zara 10b). Nonetheless, Nachum Ish Gam Zu’s bitachon remained unblemished and undiminished.

Elijah the Prophet came and appeared before the ruler as one of his ministers. He said to the ruler: Perhaps this earth is from the earth of their father Abraham. As when he threw earth, it turned into swords, and when he threw stubble, it turned into arrows. There was one province that the Romans were unable to conquer. They took some of this earth, tested it by throwing it at their enemies, and conquered that province. When the ruler saw that this earth indeed had miraculous powers, his servants entered his treasury and filled Nachum of Gam Zu’s chest with precious jewels and pearls and sent him off with great honor.

The Misunderstanding

Many understand gam zu l’tova as an expression of bitachon (trust) in Hashem as a tool to calm us when things go (apparently) wrong. Gam zu l’tova soothes us by reminding us that Hashem does all for good, and therefore we should not be upset. The story with the Roman emperor is understood as exemplifying and justifying Nachum Ish Gam Zu’s calm demeanor even in the direst situation.

However, the Gemara begins the story noting that Nachum Ish Gam Zu is “melumad b’nisim,” accustomed to miracles. We think that the Sages recognized that Nachum Ish Gam Zu motivated Hashem to make miracles. Furthermore, we believe he triggered Hashem’s blessings with his unwavering conviction that gam zu l’tova. In other words, his undiluted bitachon in Hashem generated miracles.

Gam Zu L’Tova in Action

Recently, a TABC graduate called to share his disappointment at not receiving the summer internship at a prestigious firm he wanted. I responded that gam zu l’tova, Hashem knows best, and the rejection is a good thing.

Immediately after we finished our discussion, a recruiter from a different and even more prestigious firm called, saying that they would offer him a job but only if he was ready to accept the company’s offer. He happily accepted the offer since the other corporation rejected him. Had he not been rejected from the other firm, he would not have known how to answer! The rejection from the first institution was l’tov, for the best!

Conclusion: Think Good And It Will Be Good!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was fond of saying, “Think good and it will be good.” He attributed the source of this attitude to Tehillim 55:23, which states “Hashlech al Hashem yehavecha, v’hu yechalkelecha,” cast your needs to Hashem, and He will support you.

I suggest that the “Think good and it will be good” attitude also powers the gam zu l’tova attitude to yield beautiful results. Nachum Ish Gam Zu’s unshakeable bitachon generated the dirt miracle even in a highly desperate situation.

Our story is only one of many modern-day examples of pure and unwavering bitachon, following the example set by Nachum Ish Gam Zu, triggering a miracle from Hashem. May we all maximize our bitachon in Hashem, and may it elicit many of His gifts for ourselves, our families, and all of Am Yisrael.


Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles