Everything is for your own good, even when you don’t understand!

Every time a person reads the Torah, he can discover another layer of ideas, messages, and even advice for life.

Women of the Wall 2013 (390) (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Women of the Wall 2013 (390)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Other than the commandments, the stories, and the ideas written explicitly in the Torah, there are many hidden messages that can be “found” only with repeated readings.
Every time a person reads the Torah, he can discover another layer of ideas, messages, and even advice for life.
Let us look at one of these educational messages hidden in this week’s parsha.
Moshe Rabbeinu describes for the nation of Israel a situation in which a son, a child or youth, or even an adult wonders about the significance of the Torah and commandments: “When your son asks you in time to come, saying: ‘What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which the Lord our God has commanded you?” (Deuteronomy 6, 20) We should note: This is describing a wise young man who knows how to differentiate among the various hues of the commandments and details them: Testimonies, statutes and ordinances.
We should also note the defiant tone that accompanies his question. He does not ask the question delicately, “Why do we have to keep the commandments,” but expresses himself by lack of agreement, “What mean the testimonies, the statutes...”
The answer proposed by Moshe is comprised of two parts. The first part deals with a short review of the history of Am Yisrael: “... then you shall say to your son: ‘We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his house, before our eyes. And He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He swore unto our fathers.’” (Deuteronomy 21-23) The father, donning the hat of the explainer, opens his explanation with a description of the bitter years of slavery in Egypt. He continues by telling of the wondrous exodus from the land of the slaves which was accompanied by severe punishment of the enslaving nation. All this was done in front of the nation about to be liberated, when the purpose was having the nation reach the Land of Israel and fulfilling the vow made by G-d to the fathers of the nation, Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya’acov.
After this, the father reaches the main part of the answer to his son’s question: “And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’” (Deuteronomy 24-25) Here, the father tells his attentive son about the main purpose of the commandments – to benefit those who keep them, and provide them with a life of significance and happiness. He continues and tells his son of the expected reward for the person who loyally keeps the commandments.
Why did the father need to describe for his son the history of the enslavement in Egypt and the exodus to freedom? How does that answer the son who is troubled regarding the significance of the commandments? Why wasn’t the second part of the answer sufficient, that which deals directly with the purpose of all commandments and the reward for those who keep them? The answer to this is hidden in the understanding that we do not completely comprehend all the commandments. Though we do understand many commandments, and it is easy to discern how they cause us to have a better and happier life, there are other commandments that, in order to understand them, we must invest and learn, look and investigate. And, there are commandments which are just hard for us to understand why they should be kept.
The father who is about to bequeath to his son the most important message knows that he is not able to stand and explain at this moment the significance of every commandment. It is even possible that he himself finds it difficult to understand certain commandments. If so, how will he be able to persuade his son that even those commandments contain a promise for a happy life? The solution Moshe Rabbeinu suggests to this father is – Trust.
“Look,” explains the father to his young son, “though there are things that I cannot comprehend, I can promise you that the G-d who gave us these commandments wants only what is best for us. This I know when I look back on history and see that G-d took care of us, liberated us from slavery and punished before our eyes those who tortured us. I am convinced that everything G-d instructs me to do – even if right now I do not understand why – it is only for my own good.”
From this we learn an educational message relevant to every parent. It is very advisable for a child to understand the purpose and significance of the instructions he receives from his parents, but it is not always possible to explain everything.
Sometimes the explanation is too complex for the child.
Sometimes the parent is not clear on the correct way to explain to the child why he has to do what his parents want.
But there is a solution. First of all, we must make sure that the child clearly knows that his parents want only what is best for him; that his parents love him and worry about his well-being.
When we successfully convey to the child that his parents have no interests other than what is best for him, he will agree to do things that he does not yet understand.Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.