Monday, February 1, 2016

Mesira IX: Desperate Measures - Making Things Worse by Making them Better

Okay! I am ready to admit my error.

By way of introduction, my site meter coughs up all kinds of worthless information about how many people check out my blog (not enough) and which posts get the most hits. Of course, many of the hits are just on the blog site itself or on the very recent posts, but there are some posts from the days of yore that have a bit of longevity. (It is quite likely that the hits come from search engines where the viewer is checking out some relevant keywords and is not trying to find my blog; especially when they come from places like Lebanon, Bulgaria and Suriname. Also quite likely it isn’t read when it is hit.)

One of these immortal posts is one that I wrote over 6½ years ago. The post is titled: Curing Cancer the Torah Way and it is well worth reviewing. But I need to fine tune something there.

In the post, I stated and sourced the main concept of One Above and Seven Below – that we can solve every social and personal problem that we have by doing what HKBH wants. And what He wants us to do is encompassed in the short pasuk (Vayikra 26:3): אם בחקותי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אותם.

Now that is a general one-sized-fits-all pasuk, the root of the tree. In the aforementioned post, I brought down a few other pasukim that deal with specific issues, some of the branches. Among those mentioned were: war, poverty, droughts, divorce, infertility, and, as the post title indicates, illness.

Each pasuk, in addition to the root, is a promise from HKBH that if we follow the “prescription”, the stated problem with be diverted to other venues.

My error is that I think I was too soft in this post. The reader gets the impression that I am saying that doing what HKBH wants is a simpler, easier, cheaper, and more efficient avenue to solving our problems. As if we have an alternative to do it the “hard way” or the “easy way” but, in the end, both avenues may work. Alternative medicine.

This is a grave mistake and I should have been clearer.

Doing what HKBH wants is not the easier avenue. It’s the only avenue.

Nothing else is going to work no matter how hard we try.

Advancements in medicine and technology, subsidies, incentives, “dialog”, prenups and Kol Korehs may reduce the occurrences of human misfortunes and even totally rescue individuals from their personal challenge (sickness, agunah, abuse or whatever), yet they will not eradicate the problems. Never.

Why not?

Because HKBH does not want these problems to be eradicated in this manner.

Why not?

Because He wants us to achieve Im Bechukosai Teleilchu, and Im Shamoa Tishmi’u L’Kol Hashem (Shmos 16:26), and Birtzos Hashem Darkei Ish (Mishlei 16:7) and all those other “directives” as they are explained by Chazal.

But He doesn’t only want us to achieve these, he demands it from us. They are required, mandatory, imperative.

There is no alternative (medicine).

So, if we want to cure cancer for once and for all, no amount of medical research will do the trick. Not that it can’t in potential, but HKBH will never allow it. He won’t let it work. Because, if it would, we will never reach the status of V’Haya Im Shamoa Tishma L’Kol Hashem which is what He really wants from us. And this is what it really takes to eradicate cancer.

As I wrote in my book, Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t state this “deal” as merely an option – take it or leave it. It’s an offer we can’t refuse.

It’s a good idea to internalize this concept and not to lose sight of it – because it goes a step further.

Many Jews do not fully grasp that these down to earth methods of solving problems are not going to work. They call it “hishtadlus”. But hishtadlus that lacks bitachon is worthless. And hishtadlus that goes against achieving the goals that HKBH truly wants us to achieve is worth even less. Because not only does it not work, but HKBH sees to it that it makes things worse!

When it comes to medicine, HKBH loads up all of His (our?) pharmaceuticals with side effects. If He wants these things to cure us, why does everything have to come along with nausea or dizziness or dryness?

He wants us to realize that this isn’t the real medicine. It is only artificial. These drugs may cure one ailment, but something else is going to start to hurt. We are not to rely on these drugs but rather to seek out the true cure – Shmos 16:26.

But we don’t stop. So when we have trouble getting along with our Yishmaeli cousins, we try all kinds of artificial prescriptions: Oslo and the Gaza disengagement, negotiations and diplomacy. We have to do something! We can’t leave things as they are. Give peace a chance!!

The One Above-niks knew they weren’t going to work. In order to achieve וחרב לא תעבר בארצכם (Vayikra 26:6), we need to implement Im Bechukosai Teleichu (Vayikra 26:3). Nothing else is going to work.

But for those Jews that don’t understand this, HKBH has to illustrate that it’s not just that these actions are not going to make anything better, they are going to make them a whole lot worse. This is what it takes to open up our eyes.
And so they have!

Likewise, we will not eradicate problems of Shalom bayis and the Agunah issue. Why? Because HKBH doesn’t want us to. He wants us to achieve ברצות ה' דרכי איש גם אויביו ישלים עמו. (Mishlei 16:7) He wants us to choose marriage partners that will primarily enable us to fulfil His will (אם בחקתי תלכו...) not our own. And any “solution” that is not based on this isn’t going to work.

But many people – even very well meaning holy ones – say: We have to put an end to this Agunah crisis once and for all! And they push for creative solutions like Prenups, Get Laws, and frivolous Hafkaas Kiddushin which are designed to let the self-indulgent community have its cake and eat it, too.

Come the Gedolei Haposkim and tell us that not only are these desperate solutions not going to put an end to the problem, they are going to make things a whole lot worse.

We do indeed need to find ways to alleviate the Shidduch crisis but, even this has to be done with the recognition that if this crisis exists, it is because HKBH wants it to. As such, desperate solutions such as encouraging boys to marry before they are ready (or encouraging girls to hold off until they are older) stand to cause more harm than good.

A bad solution is much worse than no solution.

The same holds true for poverty issues and the tuition crisis. Chazal have told us for centuries how to deal with it – עשר תעשר > עשר בשביל שתתעשר. And I have been “reinforcing” Chazal for years (see HERE and HERE). This is what would have worked in the past. Only now, we have achieved ואיש את קדושיו לו יהיו (Bamidbar 5:10 see Rashi) and so we no longer have the capitol to put it into effect.

And, finally, this brings us to what may be the worst kellala on the roster: child abuse and molestation. This one encompasses almost all of those listed above. It is devastatingly destructive. And so, we hear countless calls that this plague must be eradicated.

People mistakenly look at this as a man-made plague. And pretend it can be easily handled if we only mahsser all of the offenders to the police and “put them in jail for life”.

Many of us cannot admit that this is a sickness sent by G-d just like cancer. HKBH wants this malady to be here in this generation. For the same reason that He wants cancer to be here. He wants us to “discover” that sexual misconduct is a direct consequence of the Eitz Hadaas (see Ramban Breishis 2:9) and to do what we need to do to fix it. As long as we do not achieve the “tikkun olam” for the sin of Adam HaRishon we will continue to suffer from it (Rambam Issurei Biah 22:19).

Of course we can and we must treat those who suffer from it just like we treat those who are ill and we help those who are poverty stricken and we help estranged couples either make up or split up.

But when we go beyond First Aid and try to implement long-term solutions out of sheer desperation and community pressure, instead of doing it the way G-d wants, we aren’t going to fix anything. We are only going to make things a whole lot worse.  

Before we do anything, we need to take a long hard look at what it is we are trying to solve, what is causing this problem, and in what way is any specific course of action going to fix it. If we do this properly, we will not need any vague and misleading Kol Korehs.

Just do what G-d says. Because…

…desperate times call for desperate measures.

אין חכמה ואין תבונה ואין עצה לנגד השם

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