There is a common denominator between two of the big topics discussed in the parsha this week. Parshas Shmini speaks about the sudden death of the two holy sons of Aharon, and then it moves on to the laws of kashrut, the foods that are permissible and prohibited for us to consume.
The common denominator between the two, is one word. One word with lots of exclamation points and question marks.
Why do good people die young?
Why do bad things even happen to good people? Shouldn’t the good be rewarded with good and the bad be rewarded with bad? Isn’t that just logical?
While we’re on the topic of suffering... why can’t I eat my ice cream right after my chicken?! I gotta eat dessert six hours after my meal?
One thing I’ll tell you for sure: keeping kosher is the best diet out there. There is no nutritionist in the world who can get me to wait six hours to eat my ice cream.
When Aharon found out about the deaths of his sons, he reacted by remaining silent. How can a human being possess that amount of inner strength, to accept such deep pain and such terrible suffering as God’s will, without even a question or a doubt?
Aharon had no doubt in his mind or heart that Hashem runs the world, and that everything He does is for our best. He knew it was a package deal. He knew that if Hashem is in charge of the good times, he is also there in the hard times.
I’m not going to expand upon the topic of faith now, nor am I going to discuss the important point about us humans not completely understanding what good is and what bad is.
We tend to associate something hard with something bad, and something easy with something good.
Many times it’s actually the opposite.
Eating an extra piece of chocolate cake is easy. Working out at the gym is hard.
Which is good for me, and which is bad?
The first thing we need to realize is that just because something is hard, it doesn’t make it bad, and just because something is easy, by no means is it automatically good.
I believe that Aharon was trying to teach us a vital message.
Every day we find ourselves entangled in a conflict of wills.
My will versus His will.
Emotions versus intellect.
Body versus soul.
If every time I choose right over wrong I get a hundred dollars deposited into my bank account, I will obviously keep choosing good.
If every time I speak loshon horah my tongue freezes for an hour, I will likely not choose that path again.
If I get repaid with obvious good for every good deed, or suffer openly each time I choose wrongly, I will no longer be functioning through free will. None of my decisions will have a moral backing. I will always choose good to get rewarded or to avoid getting punished, but my choice will have nothing to do with my desire to do or be good.
In order to maintain a world of true freedom, there have to be situations that appear random, that are difficult to understand. If God were predictable or comprehensible, what kind of God would He be?
He gave us life, and along with it the opportunity to live it the way we choose to. The way to happiness is through choices and challenges. Through mistakes, regret, and growth.
Repaying good with immediate and obvious good, and bad with immediate and obvious bad will remove all of our free will from the world, and diminish challenges and satisfaction.
There have been an excess amount of tragedies over the past few weeks, and Aharon’s message could not have come at a better time.
No, we don’t understand these tragedies. But we’re not supposed to.
Aharon taught us through his acceptance and unwavering faith, that belief in Hashem is a package deal. He is in charge of the positive as well as the negative. And it’s done on purpose, to allow us to live our lives the way we choose to live them, and to experience the highest level of growth and happiness through it.
Now, what does all of this have to do with my ice cream?
Mitzvos are not always convenient, nor are they easy to do. Respecting a mitzvah only when it’s convenient for us is egotistical and lowers its level of greatness. But keeping it when we don’t understand it, or when we don’t like it too much, raises it to a level of altruism and allows us to follow the Torah without any ulterior motives, and for one reason only:
God Said So.
So, I don’t understand why I can’t eat ice cream after meat, and it isn’t easy to tie up my vocal chords in front of men, and it’s inconvenient to cover my knees at the beach. But it’s a package deal. Hashem is in charge, and having proper bitachon means knowing without a shadow of a doubt that everything He does and everything He asks of us is for our good.
Have a beautiful shabbos!