`105 God's Classified Information
Chananya Weissman
June 14, 2021

I recently read an incredible story in a Shabbos journal that is devoted to hashgacha pratis (divine providence). I am sharing it because it teaches us a critical insight for now and always.

There was a city in France an hour away from Paris that was home to many Jews, but in terms of Torah it was a wasteland. A rabbi from Israel moved there with his family with the goal of changing that. He and his wife were blessed with nine children, all of them boys, and very much wanted a daughter.

With tremendous dedication, they slowly began to draw the local Jews closer to Torah. They succeeded in establishing a shul and a yeshiva. After several years, thanks to the great dedication of the rabbi and his family, Torah observance began to blossom. However, with this increased observance came a problem: the nearest mikveh was an hour away, and it was a great burden for people to make this lengthy trip every time they needed to go. The rabbi decided it was time for the community to have its own mikveh.

But who would pay for it?

There was no choice. He would pay for it himself.

For years they saved whatever money they could and slowly built a mikveh in the courtyard of their home. Every step of the way the rabbi brought in and consulted with rabbinic experts to ensure that the mikveh was built to the highest of standards.

During this time, they were blessed with a tenth child, but this too was a boy. They named him Shlomo. Although they were disappointed that they still didn't have a daughter, they felt a special attachment to Shlomo. He was the apple of their eye.

Finally, after years of saving, planning, and construction, the mikveh was complete.

One Shabbos morning his wife was in the kitchen and called for Shlomo. He didn't answer. She went looking for him, and couldn't find him in the house. She went outside and saw that the gate to the mikveh, which was normally locked to prevent children from meandering inside, was open. With great dread she entered the mikveh and found her precious Shlomo face down in the water, dead.

Their grief was immeasurable. Although the righteous couple accepted Hashem's will, they struggled to make sense of the tragedy. The Gemara relates that a man by the name of Nechunya would dig wells, cisterns, and caves for the benefit of the public. One day his daughter fell into a great pit. They went and informed Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa. For two hours the holy sage assured them that everything was fine. In the third hour he informed them that the girl had ascended from the pit. As he later explained, it was inconceivable that the righteous Nechunya would sacrifice so greatly for something only to have his own children stumble with it (Bava Kama 50A).

In light of this, how could it be that the rabbi could sacrifice so much to build this mikveh only to have his young son drown in it? The many great rabbis they asked shared in their grief, but were unable to offer an explanation. Who can fathom the ways of Hashem?

One night the rabbi had a dream. A man with a white beard and a shining face appeared to him and said “Hello, father.”

“Father!” he replied. “You look old enough to be my grandfather!”

The man explained that he was his son, Shlomo. “In heaven it is very difficult for them to allow someone to return to this world, but they allowed me to come to you for three reasons. First of all, I owe you a debt of gratitude for raising me in your home, and hakaras hatov is treated with great importance in the next world. Second of all, your suffering is great, and you deserve to be consoled. Third of all, it is important for the Jews to hear this story to strengthen their emunah.

“My soul is that of one of the baalei Tosfos. I lived in France 900 years ago and was murdered during the pogroms. Because of the manner in which I was killed, I was buried immediately in my bloody clothes, and my body was not immersed in a mikveh before burial. When my soul ascended to heaven I was granted access to all the heavenly spheres, in the tremendous merit of dying al kiddush Hashem, in addition to my other merits. I derived great pleasure from traversing the heavens and basking in the light of Hashem.

“One day I encountered a particular chamber and the ministering angels denied me access. They acknowledged that I was generally entitled to go wherever I desired because I died al kiddush Hashem, but only those who had been immersed in a mikveh before burial could enter this chamber. The only way I could be allowed entry would be to come back to this world and rectify this. I consented to this.

“But which mikveh would I use? After investigating the matter we determined that there was no better mikveh than yours, which was built with such mesiras nefesh to the highest standards. I was born to you specifically for this reason. Thanks to you my soul achieved what it needed in this world. You can be consoled.”

The old man in the dream then gave the rabbi two signs to prove that his words were real. First, that at the age of eight months Shlomo had contracted a mysterious illness that the doctors despaired of treating, then one day out of the blue he recovered completely. Second, he urged the rabbi and his wife to be careful with the mitzvah of Challah. In this merit, they would have a daughter.

The rabbi woke up and learned that his wife had experienced a similar dream, with the same instruction to be careful with the mitzvah of Challah. The following year they were blessed with a daughter. That's the story.

On the surface it illustrates what we know but often struggle with: Hashem is in control of everything, and even that which seems tragic is ultimately for the best.

But there is an even deeper lesson here. Imagine if the parents knew from the beginning that Shlomo was the soul of one of the baalei Tosfos and had returned just to use the special mikveh. Their entire experience would have been different. While parting from their child would surely have been difficult, it would not have felt like a tragedy, for in reality it wasn't a tragedy. Their faith in Hashem would not have been tested, nor would they have grown as they needed from the experience. They needed to draw the proper conclusion without having all the information.

In addition, the parents would likely not have invested so much of their emotions in raising him. Knowing that their child had been born for this specific purpose would have stripped the experience of authenticity and meaning. The purpose of their son's short life had to be hidden, otherwise it wouldn't have been life.

Imagine that you knew Moshiach would come tomorrow. We would all wish to be privy to this knowledge, but would it really be to our benefit? Would we be able to daven with the same intensity, and perform our duties with the same urgency, knowing this information? Most likely not. We would take off work a day early, figuring there isn't any point.

Imagine that we lived thousands of years ago and knew with certainty that Moshiach wouldn't arrive anytime in the near future. Would we be able to say with real hope “Next year in Jerusalem”, and live our lives with the belief that it could happen anytime? Or would we despair and lose the motivation to live Jewishly to the fullest?

The Torah commands us “תמים תהיה עם יהוה אלהיך” (Devarim 18:13). Rashi explains that we should go with Hashem with complete, simple faith, look to Him, and not try to figure out the future. Rather, whatever comes upon us we should accept with simple faith, and then we will be with Hashem and part of His portion.

If something is hidden from us, it is for a good reason. We are better off not knowing, and not thinking too much about it. Those who are whiling away their time trying to identify Moshiach and when he will finally reveal himself are losing their focus and straying from the proper path. There is a lot of that going on nowadays. I keep hearing that this person or that person is Moshiach, or that Moshiach is going to reveal himself by a certain date, which passes uneventfully. I've even been contacted by people who claim to be Moshiach, and one person offered to introduce me to Moshiach, who he claimed was publicly revealed many years ago. (I declined.)

Even if some of these people stumbled on the truth – which they didn't, because Hashem wants the truth to remain hidden – they would not be living as they should, with temimus. We are supposed to live every day as if Moshiach can come today, and try to give that final push. Even if Moshiach doesn't come that day, we were not fools, and our efforts were not futile. We truly lived that day, and we made a bigger difference than we can know. This is only possible if we don't know.

So while I believe very strongly that Moshiach is coming imminently, I really don't need to know who he is or precisely when it will be.

I have my own job to do.