Our responsibility is working to resolve the struggles of our lives. Hashem’s job is determining the outcomes of those struggles. Said differently, we need to carry out our histadlut independent of whether or not we get what we want through the combined efforts of our wishes and our due diligence. That is, we have to endeavor to do our best when tested by the circumstances of our days and nights even though it has never been and will never be our prerogative to govern whether or not we receive what we think we merit.
And yet, even though we are, ultimately, without sanction over the outcomes of our exertions, e.g. even though our lives might seem unfair, the endless unfolding of the universe remains, often in ways beyond our comprehension, a just unfolding. Subsequently, we suffer dissonance between what we prize and what we comprehend as taking place. We feel this discord at both personal and social levels.
Consider, as examples of this difference, the following situations that impact persons privately:
In one case, a child was very ill. Her mother, a formidable challah baker and bichor cholim organizer, cried out prayers so often and so intensely that she needed to replace her Sefer Tehillim. The child’s father intensified his efforts as a volunteer in many of the local shul’s unacknowledged service positions. The child, herself, organized one Magen David blood drive after another and increased the amount of time she allotted for providing unpaid child care for poor neighbors. Nonetheless, her parents found themselves shoveling dirt over her grave.
In another case, a young couple and their progeny, new olim, who had had no intention of living among Bedouins, let alone off of the grid in any way, shape, or form, found themselves in a sparsely populated, Samarian, hilltop community among a Jewish demographic that was new to them. Eventually, more and more families joined them at that height. When one such family was brutally attacked by ethnic cousins, the olim bought a dog. Whereas those settlers had no idea what the world, into which their children were growing, would be like, they knew they had to remain located in that place that had grown to represent more than home.
In a third case, a young adult sought employment, as a statistician, at a government agency, or as an eco-metrician, at a research and development firm. Principled beliefs disallowed that individual to look for work as a data analyst at fiduciary-endowed corporations. As a result, that person, at least during the first year of klita, bagged groceries at a local branch of a large food store.
Consider, too, as examples of this difference between what we idealize and what our lives realize, the following situations that impact persons publicly:
First, as reported by Zev Stub, on Janglo, there has been an effort afoot, in the Knesset, to change Jerusalem neighborhoods’ names to Hebrew. Accordingly, “Mamilla,” “Talbiya,” and “Holyland,” respectively, could become “Hagoshrim,” “Komemiyut” and “Eretz HaTzvi.” The contemporary, Israeli government pays inconsistent tribute to the fact that Israel is the Jewish state.
In another instance, a group of Jews raised money to help the forestation efforts of this holy land. Those funders had no idea that the organization, to which they sent their monies, looked the other way when ethnic cousins destroyed and admitted to the intentionality of their destroying, thousands of dunams of plantings.
In a third instance, Israeli youth celebrated their enlistment in the armed forces as a chance to embody, literally, the mitzvah of protecting our land. Too soon thereafter, however, they and their families cried bitterly when those same noble youths were assigned to remove Jews from Jewish homes.
On the one hand, we could find solace, for the discrepancies between what we believe ought to be and what we live through, by redefining the eventualities of our lives. We could, for instance, posit that no prayer is wasted and that, accordingly, the mitzvot and words of entreaty, which escorted the aforementioned girl to the next world likely diminished the amount of affliction she knew in this world as well as likely provided her with a higher level of attainment in the world to come. Similarly, we could argue that while the forestation organization has a confused agenda, it does help to green up Eretz Yisrael even if, at times, only nominally.
To some extent, however, such heartfelt words are no more than befuddled attempts to stay inspired. More true and more lasting would be to claim that loss hurts, in general, and that unfulfilled expectations leave us raw, more specifically. The only wiggle room we really have in negotiating our human condition is our choice of whether or not we accept what befalls us. Although sometimes difficult companions, the middot of faith and of courage well serve us.
It is possible for us to ascend from seemingly unworkable personal and social travails. Likewise, we can elect to conceptualize the most arduous of our moments not as deficiencies, but as gains; we can regard those hopeless points not as trenches, but as upward reaching treads by which we can arrive at higher levels of consciousness than the ones in which we currently find ourselves.
Granted, it is neither easy nor attractive, most often, to take on such a stance. In spite of that certainty, excusing ourselves from culpability for self-development, insisting that we try to stay only in places where we anticipate receiving comfort, is illusionary, at best, dangerous at worst. It seems that the greater the centripetal acceleration of an event, the greater the G-force (in both senses of that word) is realized by its participants. Instead of continuing any ill-advised habit of falling back on hackneyed excuses for giving up, for yielding to impediments, when crises occur, we need to hobble forward.
This way is not easy. Our path is often not clearly marked. Yet, it is our job is to walk the walk and to let The Boss fathom the outcome.