For the week ending 13 May 2006 / 15 Iyyar 5766

The Just Judge

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Shaul in Jerusalem

Dear Rabbi,

We are supposed to believe that everything that happens to a person in life is from G-d. Whether he is healthy, wealthy or has children and the like are all from G-d who judges justly. If this is so, why should we pray to Him to change the portion He’s given us? Why should a person ask G-d for more money, or better health, or more children? Isn’t this a chutzpa tantamount to telling G-d He doesn’t know what’s best?

Dear Shaul,

You are right: Everything that a person has or doesn’t have is all from G-d – the Just Judge.

But there’s a big difference between what a person should or shouldn’t have now, and what he should or shouldn’t have a second from now. This constant re-evaluation takes place literally every second.

If a person feels that it is in his best interest to improve his lot in life by being more healthy, more wealthy or having (more) children and the like, he is certainly entitled to make reasonable effort to attain this goal. Whether he succeeds or not is ultimately up to G-d, based on what He thinks is/would be best the person now/later.

A parallel, and even more important, arena of effort to attain one’s desires is on the plane of prayer. The reason for this is because effort in the physical plane addresses only the symptom of the “malady”, while penitential prayer pries into its cause. Often the reason we lack a better lot is because we’re spiritually out of line. When we turn to G-d asking Him to improve our portion, teshuva (repentence) makes us a different person and prayer directs new blessing to that “new” person.

Therefore we should certainly accept what we have or don’t have at any given time as justly determined by the Omniscient. But this doesn’t preclude the possibility of improving our lot, through a combination of effort in the physical and spiritual planes to literally make ourselves better in both. In fact, G-d often withholds blessing when we don’t deserve it, in order that we do just that – return to Him through prayer.

Accordingly, it would actually be more of a chutzpa to apathetically accept the malady than to endeavor to effect its cure.

That being said, it is sometimes possible that what we think would be best, in fact would not. If after reasonable effort and persistent penitential prayer a particular situation persists, this may be a sign that things are not as they appear, and that G-d knows best. For this reason we don’t pray for a specific amount of money or to marry a specific person, but rather generally for a good livelihood or for the proper soul mate etc. What we think would be a blessing might actually be a curse.

Let’s try to be our best, pray for the best, and rely on the Best.

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