A good book has many plot twists that keep us enthralled. Sometimes, we find the rug pulled out from under us, especially if one of the main characters unexpectedly dies. When these kinds of surprises happen in real life, though, it’s not enthralling, it’s tragic. Unexpected occurrences are difficult to cope with. How are we to deal with unpleasant surprises?
G-d spent days convincing Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. After finally agreeing, Moses traveled back to Midian to collect his wife and two sons. On the way, they stopped overnight in an inn, when suddenly Moses was attacked by a large snake. Realizing that G-d was punishing Moses for not circumcising their son, his wife Zipporah quickly circumcised their son, and G-d made the snake retreat.
Wait a minute! What would have happened if Zipporah hadn’t, in the nick of time, realized why Moses was being punished? Would Moses really have died?! What would have happened to the Israelites in Egypt? Who would have led them out? Aaron?
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explains that this question is coming from a misguided perspective. G-d created this world with cause and effect. Cause and effect makes the world understandable; if we turn on a light switch, the light turns on. If the world were chaotic, without a logical cause and effect — say, if the first time we turned on a light switch on the faucet would open and the next time we hit the switch the refrigerator door open up — we wouldn’t ever know what to expect, but we would never be surprised at the way events unfolded.
By creating cause and effect, G-d gave us the ability to plan. Once we set a goal, we make plans that we feel will most effectively help us reach that goal. But in reality, G-d runs the show and we cannot ever fathom the outcome. Our plan may be logical, but G-d makes sure that events happen the way they need to happen.
What would have happened if Moses would have died? Only G-d knows. If Moses had to die, we can rest assured that G-d would have had a plan in place.
There are many snags in life. When we hit one, we have two choices. We can try to fathom how such a thing could occur in spite of our careful planning. Or, we can change our perspective and realize that we can’t control the world through our designs. Changing our perspective will lead us to happier, more balanced lives.
By: Rabbi Dovid Gilman