By the Grace of G‑d
13 Sivan, 5716 [1956]

Greetings and Blessings!

I1 received the letter in which you briefly describe what you have been through in the course of your life — the wanderings, the experiences and the anxieties — until recently, when you arrived in [...]. In addition, your letter points out things that are incomprehensible.

Since the secretariat has no Russian typewriter I am replying in Yiddish, but obviously you can continue writing to me in the language in which you are most at ease.2

According to what you write, you find it strange that you can see no explanation for the incidents that have taken place in your family and in your home.

Now, if you ponder on this a little, you won’t have to find it strange, because a mortal sees only a limited part of what goes on in his life and in his surroundings, and that is why he cannot correctly assess the meaning of what he sees.

To make this concept transparently clear, let me offer an analogy. Imagine someone walking into an operating theater. He sees a man on the operating table surrounded by people with a variety of scalpels, who ignore his groans and continue cutting away. Not knowing the patient’s full medical history, this chance observer will no doubt run out and raise an alarm: “They’ve taken hold of someone! They’re cutting him up! He’s groaning in pain, but he can’t free himself from these kidnappers and murderers!”

Suppose, however, that someone explains to the chance observer that this very operation is necessary in order to enable the patient to survive for decades ahead, and that is why the surgeons are disregarding his several hours of pain. In such a case the bypasser will heartily agree not only that these scalpel-wielders are neither kidnappers nor murderers, but that they are in fact the patient’s greatest benefactors. This is true even when one does not consider that these surgeons cannot give a hundred percent guarantee that the operation will be successful, nor can they guarantee how long the patient is going to live after the operation, even if it is successful.

From this we can understand that in the course of a man’s life in this world something may happen that for a period may entail pain — real pain, not imagined. And nevertheless he knows, and also perceives, Divine Providence.162 This means that he knows that the world is not random. It is conducted with a certain order, which encompasses not only himself but also his family. And far beyond this, one’s plain healthy sense dictates that these incidents are certainly in no contradiction to the order that reigns in the world all around. It is only that we don’t hear an explanation from the Surgical Specialist of the great benefit that one receives though the temporary pain.

There are people who raise questions or who say that they are in doubt as to whether there is order and purpose in the world. However, everyone knows — from physics, chemistry, astronomy, and so on (and this is recognized not only by Jews, and not only by believers in G‑d, but even by nonbelievers) — that every tiniest atom in the universe has its precise laws, and everything transpires according to those laws that have been discovered to date. So, too, the earth and its stones and the vegetative and animal kingdoms, and likewise whatever surrounds us, all have fixed laws and established characteristics — even though all of this is of immensely wider scope than one man and his family.

Now, picture someone walking through an immense building with thousands of rooms. He observes that every item in every room is arranged in an orderly manner; in fact, even he can tell that there is order everywhere. There is only one little room about which he has his doubts as to whether here, too, all the furnishings and other objects are correctly placed. At this point every straightforward person would no doubt consider: Since the thousands of rooms in this huge edifice are all in the best of order, then also this solitary room — whose orderliness he has not yet grasped, but it is, after all, part of the edifice at large — surely has a planned order to it, even though he does not understand it.

It would be superfluous, I believe, to further analyze and explain the analog, but I would like to add one more detail.

If every one of us, and that includes you yourself, would ponder upon the way in which his years have passed, the places he has been, and the things that have happened, and if one would think about this objectively, he would see tens and thousands of instances in which he has been led in a certain direction — starting from ten years ago, and since then everything is moving in one direction, from left to right.3

However, since G‑d wants a man to do things by his own free will, every individual — and that includes yourself — is permitted and enabled to choose his path for himself. It is therefore not surprising that since a human being is no more than a human being, one sometimes makes mistakes and strays off the path, and instead of following a uniformly straight path, one sometimes zigzags. But if one then thinks deeply into all the above, and if one does not want to delude oneself, one sets one’s heart on making the zigzags smaller and less frequent. By doing this one arrives at the goal that G‑d has set for every human being, and especially for every Jew — that he should be truly happy with his family, in this world, too. One can arrive at this when one conducts himself in the way that we are taught by the Torah, which is called Toras chayim — a living Torah.

One only has to preempt the argument often used by the Evil Inclination. He points to a person who is held to be devout and to conduct himself according to the Torah, and he also points out this person’s faults. Proceeding from this, the Evil Inclination seeks to convince his debating partner that since the said individual conducts himself according to the Torah and nevertheless has these faults, this proves that the Torah (G‑d forbid) is at fault — for look, he has done this wrong and that wrong and yet another wrong.

The falsehood here lies in the fact that the Evil Inclination shows only part of this person, and not the whole picture. Let me throw light on this by using an analogy.

Walking down the street one sees a man on crutches coming out of the office of a medical specialist. The bypasser may think, or even say, “That specialist isn’t worth much! This man just visited him and paid him well, and he follows his orders exactly. Yet he’s using crutches and can’t take a step without them!”

Suppose, however, that someone explained the bypasser that before this patient ever visited the specialist, he was completely paralyzed and couldn’t even move his feet. The specialist not only mitigated the paralysis, but also strengthened the patient. Now, not only can he move his feet: he can even walk, and is gradually walking better and more easily, though he still needs his crutches. It is thus possible that as he continues to follow the specialist’s orders, he will eventually be able to dispense with the crutches and will be completely healed.

In the same way, people have various qualities from birth. Some have more good ones, some have more negative ones. However, as a result of education at the hands of good teachers, and above all as a result of self-education — if it is done correctly — then even the innate negative attributes become ever weaker and less influential. Now, since a man has to teach himself and train himself throughout his entire lifetime, it is no wonder that one may encounter a particular person in the midst of his labors of self-education. It is no wonder if one finds in him part of his ungood,4 too (and the reason is not that in his self-education he does not obey the directives of the Specialist) — but on the other hand, the extent of his faults is now much weaker than it was earlier.

I would like to conclude by spelling out the intent underlying this letter of mine. It was written not for the sake of philosophizing, but in order to present you with the thought — that if you want to make use of objective and healthy reason, it should bring you to strengthen your trust in G‑d. It should bring you to look with a kindly eye upon the people around you in general, and upon the townsmen of [...] in particular. It should bring you to see their positive qualities, which were mostly attained by toil, and to consider their faults, if they exist, in the spirit of the above analogy of the temporary crutches. Above all, what should be known is that you ought to do your part to light up your environment, and not only your family’s environment, but also a wider circle of people. This can be achieved by being steeped in ahavas Yisrael, a love of fellow Jews, and by a desire to benefit them. And this is certainly good and does good for yourself, too, and for your family.

I hope that you will read this letter with all due attentiveness. It goes without saying that if you have any questions or if something is not clear enough, I would be happy if you would write me about this. I will make a point of replying, to whatever extent is possible, even if numerous preoccupations should delay the reply somewhat.

It appears to me that such delays are also an indication that you are being given more time, so that of your own free will you will change the way you perceive the people around you, and so that one’s conduct will grow ever better. And may G‑d bless you with success.

With blessings,