I recently heard a remarkable expression from a very chasheveh Rebbetzin that I must relate to you. When she was asked by a close friend how she was managing she responded “Yesterday was very challenging בלי עין הרע  but I succeeded”. Now the term בלי עין הרע  is usually used to describe a great situation of nachas which we desire to  continue. So to use this same expression in relationship to difficult challenges is a little perplexing?
However, to the individual who makes a conscious effort to connect to Hashem daily, he understands very well that to be tested is the only avenue by which one creates a closer bond with Hashem. This enables him to fulfill his potential to the fullest thereby giving him an enormous portion of delight with Hashem in the eternal World to Come בלי עין הרע.Lately I have been thinking of the meaning of the expression All the Best or כל טוב. Are we wishing another person with these words that everything that he experiences should go good for him and not bad? But if Hashem is a מטיב a benefactor as we say in Birkas Hamazon הוא הטיב הוא מטיב הוא יטיב לנו הוא גמלנו והוא גומלינו הוא יגמלנו לעד לחן ולחסד ולרחמים ולרוח הצלה ברכה וכול’then of course everything that happens to us which is under HashgachasHashem is for our benefit and is absolutely good for us. So what function does this beracha kol tuv mean? if you want to interpret and say that it means that we are bentching our friend with a beracha that there will be an absence with no challenges or just light ones because we perceive even a little discomfort as no good, then we are shortchanging his Olam Habah, is that fair? Have we suddenly become the CEO of Planet Earth and the Seven Heavens that we are telling Hashem how and in which manner to benefit us?

One of the reasons why the Beracha of Atah Chonein the beseeching Hashem for daas precedes all the other requests in the Shemoneh Esrai is because we must first ask Hashem for knowledge in order to know what to ask for and not mistakenly ask for something that might be to our detriment even though we think it is very beneficial. If anyone knows you better than you know yourself it is Hashem. As a parent we have experienced how young children and teenagers try to push their agendas to their parents even though their choices are off and sometimes downright harmful to themselves. They will many times respond to their parent’s adversity with resentful and threatening words such as “You don’t care or love me” thereby pressuring some of the weaker parents to acquiesce to their demands. Well we are all like children when we ask Hashem to fulfill our requests. We can ask but we have to accept a no answer as well for Hashem has the most unimaginable love and concern for our betterment and protection with our every single move, every second of the day, every day.

I therefore suggest that this expression “All the Best” and “Kol Tuv” is the beracha that one should come to realize that “All” that happens to you is Tovand the Best that could be for you even though it is difficult and challenging. מפי עליון לא תצא הרעות  (Aicha 3,38). The passuk says טוב ה’ לכל and we are all included in this good that Hashem bestows (see Ohr Hachayim Shmos 6,2).

When one Yid meets another and asks, “How are things going?” he might respond with “Ken Zein Besser” that it could be better. If one would think about this answer he would have second thoughts of responding thus. It is an inappropriate response because who says that this is even true that it could be better? For sure you can be better and make better moral choices but your situation mirrors your past choices and is your own making even if it might be from another gilgul. If are bechira was not correlated to the undesirable situations we find ourselves in, we would be in hot water. Without discomfort and some type of pain in our lives, we would hardly ever do teshuvah to correct and rectify our misdeeds and therefore our relationship with Hashem would lose its intimacy.

A famous speaker once addressed a packed audience with the challenge what do you think would be your greatest regret after 120? He asked the audience to take a minute and sincerely ponder this thought. When the time was up, he himself answered, not thinking enough about the essence of life, in the same way we just did during the last minute.

We find ourselves so busy today with demanding schedules, obligations, cell phones and internet that we have literally stopped to think concerning what are we doing here on earth and for what purpose did Hashem plant us here? The bottom line is that only through seriously thinking about this topic, can we create a deeper relationship with Hashem. It is this thought process and contemplation like nothing else, that effects everything in our lives that truly matter, the quality of our emunah, Torah learning, the relationship with our family, bein adam lechaveiro and the fulfillment of mitzvos. This is the very rock foundation with which the Mesillas Yesharim begins his classic sefer יסוד החסידות ושורש העבודה התמימה as stated in his first words. After thinking this through, the rest of the sefer is advice and strategies how to attain and master one’s bonding with Hashem.

The parsha of Mattos begins with the din of nedarim and shevuos. The sefarimwrite that the word נדר spells נ דר residing by the fiftieth level. The Kabbalists say that the fiftieth level represents Binah understanding. By making a neder we are forced to think and weigh our actions in order not to transgress our words. Many vows are made in order to help one reach higher levels or to conquer weaknesses that we find challenging. Avraham made a shevuah in order not to benefit from the spoils of the war because he wanted to strengthen his emunah in Hashem (Bereishis 14,22). The nedarim are here to make us the best we can become. They were given to us so we will be pressured into thinking about our undesirable actions, to help rid ourselves from them, and to foster and fortify more positive behavior and self control.

Whether we set aside time to think or not, it is one of our greatest challenges and will be unfortunately our greatest regrets. There is a fine line between the words best and beast. There is only a one letter difference. Our society increasingly supports to dwarf the spirit of Man encouraging and fostering instead the beast within.  If we do not strive to be the best we can, we will eventually drive away completely the human character and be left merely with a world of talking animals which walk around on two feet following their instincts. If only we could set aside one minute once a week and ask ourselves this same question that was presented to the audience to think what will be our greatest regret as we look back at our life’s journey, then we would have already achieved impacting our lives to change for the better.

Wishing you All the Best

Gut Shabbos
Rav Brazil