On Monday evening, May 31, Ohel Simcha Sisterhood presented a live shiur at Congregation Ohel Simcha in Kew Gardens Hills featuring Rabbi Asaf Haimoff, well-known speaker. Rabbi Haimoff shared a life-changing shiur that explored how to develop a deep, binding emunah in Hashem. He shared examples from Tanach.
He began by stating that the Gemara teaches us how to deal with challenges and difficulties. The Gemara says there is a concept to always upgrade the Beis HaMikdash, and this is where we learn that a shul should be the most beautiful building in town. There was a man named Nikanor who wanted to donate doors for the Beis HaMikdash. He traveled to Alexandria and procured doors and then he traveled back to Israel by ship with the two doors. Suddenly, great waves came and threatened the safety of the crew. He threw one of the doors into the sea to lessen the ship’s weight, but the waves continued to threaten the boat. At this point, he threw himself on the other door and said: Throw me with the door into the ocean. As soon as he said this, the ocean calmed down. The Gemara teaches that once he reached the port at Akko, the first door was found floating near the boat. It had followed underneath the ship.
The question is why didn’t Nikanor say this same statement about the first door? After all, the second door was worthless without the first. The reason is that with the first door, he felt that he did not have the right to lose his life over it and he felt it was pikuach nefesh for the crew on the ship. After he threw in the first door, it would have been natural for the ship to regain stability. However, Nikanor realized the ocean was still raging and the waves were broadcasting a message to him. The message was: Perhaps you are not sincere with your gift. Maybe your gift is not for the sake of Heaven but for your own personal interest instead. The second he realized that he was being tested this way, he proved that he was sincere in giving the gift l’sheim Shamayim. The waves stopped and then he felt regret that he hadn’t had the same m’siras nefesh for the first door. Hashem gave him back the first door, because He knew that Nikanor was sincere. This was all a test for Nikanor. When he lost the first door, Nikanor could have questioned Hashem and asked, Why is this the thank you I get for going all the way to Alexandria? However, he did not do that. In fact, all the doors of the Beis HaMikdash were gold except the bronze doors of Nikanor, which were kept because of the miracle that happened for him with those doors.
Rabbi Haimoff then spoke about the trials of Yosef HaTzadik, who was disconnected from his family and his beis midrash. He was in a society that acted on instinct with no morals. He was tested with the wife of Potifar, who brought him gifts and changed her clothing constantly. He decided not to sin with her and then he was thrown into prison. This was a dark dungeon cut off completely from society. He could have said, This is what I get for not sinning. He could have asked Hashem why this is my thank you for doing the right thing, but he did not do that.
Instead, he asked his fellow jail mates why they were sad today. Hashem was pushing Yosef to the limit to see how he would react. He put him in the darkest place in the world. Yosef understood what was going on. He knew he was being tested by Hashem and he needed to go through without asking questions. He knew he never lost Hashem’s help, and at this point he was able to interpret the jail mates’ dreams. Then, he became the second highest authority in Egypt.
Rabbi Asaf stressed, “You need to know that you are not going to know.” If everything is so simple, then there is no concept of bitachon. A person grows bigger and reaches his level when he gets tested like this – when you are doing everything right but the return is way off. We get tested so much in life. Sometimes we start to lose ourselves because we cannot figure out what is going on and where our tikun will end. We grow the most when we accept that we are not going to know why something is happening and we can still thank Hashem. When we can thank Hashem for this nisayon because we know it means He believes in us that we can handle this challenge, that is how we grow.
Nikanor needed to prove to himself that he was real and so did Yosef. “If you can accept that Hashem runs the world and you do not need to know why things happen, and still serve Hashem with simchah and m’siras nefesh, then Hashem will come through for you. “Sometimes, not having clarity is the clarity itself, because that is what Hashem chose for you.” Rabbi Haimoff explained that Hashem’s only interest is to do good for his people. The Ramchal taught that Hashem created the world only to do good for His people. This means going through an abnormal, painful time is good, and one day you will see why it is good, though you may not see it during your lifetime.
When you are going through a dark time, say to yourself that Hashem loves you and believes in you. Remember that you are not being punished; rather you are being tested.
This beautiful, inspiring shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber