This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, contains the curses to be inflicted on the Jewish people if they do not obey G-d. The Torah teaches that “no evil comes from Above.” Accordingly, we must conclude that even the most terrible curse contains only good, albeit in a hidden fashion.
Our Sages made two statements on the subject of hidden good: “Everything that G-d does is for the best” and “This is also for the best.” The first statement is attributed to Rabbi Akiva, who once set out on a journey with a donkey, a rooster, and a candle. Weary from his travels he reached a town, only to be turned away from all of its inns. Rabbi Akiva had to spend the night out in the open field on the outskirts of town.
That night, a lion appeared and devoured the Rabbi’s donkey, a wild cat came along and gobbled up the rooster, and the wind blew out the candle. Rabbi Akiva said, “Everything that G-d does is for the best.” In the morning Rabbi Akiva found out that during the night murderous robbers attacked the town, slaughtering all its inhabitants. He then understood that what had befallen him had saved him from a similar fate.
This story illustrates one way of understanding ultimate good which seems to be hidden within its opposite. Although Rabbi Akiva’s misfortunes caused him temporary anguish, he was spared further suffering by those very events. The wording itself of “everything G-d does is for the best” implies that whatever happens leads to ultimate good, even if it appears at first that the events themselves are not good.
A second story, about Nachum Ish Gamzu, illustrates another way of reconciling our problem. He was sent by the Sages to appease the Roman Emperor with a chest full of pearls. Along the way, unbeknownst to him, the pearls were stolen and replaced with earth. When the Emperor opened the trubute and saw the dirt he wanted to put the sage to death. Nachum Ish Gamzu said, “This is also for the best.”
And indeed it was, for G-d sent Elijah the Prophet in the guise of a minister, who suggested that the dust might be similar to the dust with which Abraham was victorious in his wars. The Emperor sent some to his soldiers on the front who immediately won the battle. In gratitude, the Emperor awarded Nachum Ish Gamzu great riches and high honors.
In this instance, what seemed at first to be misfortune turned out to be advantageous. Not only did nothing bad happen to Nachum Ish Gamzu, but he ended up being given great wealth by the Emperor. Had he brought pearls to the Emperor there was no guarantee that he would have been well received. It was precisely the earth which delighted the Emperor. There was no evil; everything which transpired was good.
Nachum Ish Gamzu, Rabbi Akiva’s teacher, was one generation closer to the era of the Holy Temple. Rabbi Akiva lived in a time more properly belonging to the exile. When the Holy Temple stood, the Jews could more easily discern the good contained in everything, even that which at first appears adverse. The exile makes it difficult to see this, and only the good resulting from seemingly bad events is discernable. As we approach the Final Redemption may we soon merit that G-d removes all concealments so that we will be able to truly understand the ultimate good hidden in all of our suffering throughout the ages. Moshiach NOW!!!