We’ve all heard the expression “When one door closes, another one opens.” Well, maybe not all of us, but it’s pretty widespread. The idea behind this is that we shouldn’t let disappointments or failures break us, because there is often another opportunity coming our way. People may consider this a result of the balance of “universal energies,” but we know it’s really Hashem behind the scenes.
The idea of universal justice and fairness are an outgrowth of our underlying faith in Hashem, as well as our innate optimism. This speaks to our ability to control our moods and our destiny with positive thinking. By imagining that there’s another opportunity or chance for success coming along, we can avoid despair, which is more crippling than the failure that started it off.
One of my favorite versions of this expression is, “When one door closes—open it. It’s a door. That’s how they work.” It reminds us that what we think is final is not often so, and what we think is the end of the line may simply be a bump in the road. Then there’s another way to look at the doors, and that is to realize that we were never meant to go through them in the first place.
My daughter texted me to relay what happened to her. She was trying to board the light rail in Jerusalem. She got to the first door, but it was an Exit Only. She hadn’t seen that before, but, undaunted, she moved on to the next door. For some reason, it didn’t open.
She went down to the third door, and there she found a family with small children and big luggage. As they shlepped and tipped the big suitcase onto the train, my daughter grabbed their other bag, scooped it onto the train, and deposited it next to them. Then she walked away and went about her business.
When she texted me about it, I was very proud and gratified. Not simply that she was kind and helped others, but that she recognized that the first two doors had to be closed to her, so she would get to the third one where she was meant to be. The fact that she recognized the hashgacha pratis—HP as she calls it—instead of getting annoyed, is something to strive for.
What often stresses us out is the frustration of things not going the way we wanted. The antidote for that is getting ourselves to the point where we not only understand, but emotionally feel, that they have gone as Hashem wanted. We don’t know what He has in store for us, or why we might run into obstacles on our chosen paths. It’s quite possible that these avenues are closed for a reason, as my daughter found out that day on the train.
A respected mechanech once told me (quoting the Ran, perhaps?) that sometimes we need a certain salvation that can only be accessed by our doing an act of kindness for another. Therefore, Hashem orchestrates events so we are in the right place to do what we need for others, which in turn affects the yeshua that we were waiting for. By helping them, we are effectively helping ourselves, thanks to Hashem’s personal concern and detailed manipulation of the world.
What this means is that the despair we felt when things didn’t work out is misplaced, because it worked out exactly as it was supposed to—we just didn’t see it. There is an old story about two fellows discussing the weather. One said, “Tomorrow will be the weather I like.” His friend asked, “How do you know?” He responded, “It will be the weather which pleases Hashem, and what pleases Hashem, pleases me.”
When we experience things in our lives which can be characterized as sad, tragic, difficult or challenging, we have the ability to find Hashem’s fingerprints on them, and change the way we look at them. When we relive Hashem’s punishments of klal Yisrael on Tisha B’Av, for example, we can wallow in misery of what we went through and lost, or we can consider the fact that Hashem cares enough about what we do to react to it.
The connection we enjoy to our Father in Heaven is our lifeline to sanity because it enables us to accept what comes our way with serenity, knowing that if a door closes in our face, it’s because we’re supposed to stay where we are or perhaps use a different door, but one way or another, we’ll get through it.
Jonathan Gewirtz is an inspirational writer and speaker whose work has appeared in publications around the world. He also operates JewishSpeechWriter.com, where you can order a custom-made speech for your next special occasion. Sign up for the Migdal Ohr, his weekly PDF dvar Torah in English. Email [email protected] and put Subscribe in the subject.