As a Father Teaches

You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so Hashem, your G-d, chastises you. (Devarim 5:8)

Hashem has declared that we are His children (“You are the children to Hashem,” Devarim 14:1), an expression of compassion and love, yet we hear and see daily the afflictions that befall our people as a nation and as individuals. Philosophically speaking, one might ask, “How can a kind and just King inflict pain and suffering on His children?”

One of the purposes of afflictions that befall a person in this world is to elevate and perfect the human being. When a couple starts the process of raising a child, one of the major achievements is to teach the child to walk. Similarly, many take the time and effort to teach their offspring how to ride a bicycle. The educational process is the same. The parents assist the child by holding a hand or the seat of the bike, and after helping the child get started, the adult lets go, hoping the child will be able to continue walking or riding on his own. Unfortunately, there is a high probability that the young one will fall many times before successfully balancing and moving forward independently. Eventually, the little person will succeed and begin getting around independently.

An observer who doesn’t understand what is going on might think that the adults are cruel and abusive. Letting go and allowing the little one to almost certainly fall would be perceived as undeserved cruelty inflicted by cold-hearted boors. As the parents repeat the trial, and maybe even laugh, the observer’s anger will certainly increase. But, of course, if the parents did not teach the child, that would constitute cruelty. The new-found independence that walking provides is a great contribution to the future of the child. It is merciful and compassionate, not cruel and inconsiderate.

This is the way of Our Father in Heaven. The passuk says: “You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so Hashem, your G-d, chastises you.” The lesson Moshe Rabbeinu taught is that the afflictions sent by Hashem are the same as parent-inflicted pain. The specific situation is designed with the purpose of drawing one closer to Hashem and encouraging growth. The Midrash says (Tanchuma, Ki Teitzei) that one should feel appreciation to Hashem when afflictions befall one. “For whom the L-rd loves he corrects, as a father does with a son in whom he delights” (Mishlei 3:12).

Dovid Hamelech suffered many hard situations and much pain in the 70 years of his life, yet it was he who declared, “Fortunate is the man whom You chasten, L-rd, and whom you teach from Your Torah” (Tehillim 94:12). He knew clearly what we must learn. When one realizes that a loving parent is disciplining one for one’s own benefit — one can feel the concern and the love — and give thanks for the good fortune of being directed towards growth and success.

May we merit achievement of spiritual success. Amen.

Shabbat shalom.