All is not right with the world (5)

Now, there’s a Talmudic statement that speaks to a lot of this, featuring R’ Akiva and as found in T. B. Berachot 60b.

“Once Rabbi Akiva was traveling with a donkey, a rooster, and a candle, and when night came he tried to find lodging in a nearby village but was turned away. Although he was forced to spend the night in the field, he didn’t lament his fate. Instead he said, ‘Everything that the All-Merciful does is for the good’”. We’re expected to be perplexed by R’ Akiva’s disbelief in the reality of rah, but we’ll see how right he was.

“A wind came and blew out his candle, a cat ate his rooster, and a lion came and ate his donkey (while they all lay in the field), and again Rabbi Akiva’s reaction was that ‘Everything that the All-Merciful does is for the good’”. Again we’re perplexed.

“That night a band of marauders came and took the entire town captive while Rabbi Akiva was asleep in the field, and he was thus spared. When R’ Akiva realized what happened he said (later on to his disciples, or see below), ‘Didn’t I tell you that everything that the All-Merciful does is for the good’?” The point is that not only did R’ Akiva avoid death by having slept in the field, though that seemed to be an instance of rah at first, but as Rashi explains it, it’s also true that if the candle, rooster, or donkey wouldn’t have been done away with that the band of marauders would have seen or heard them, and would have captured Rabbi Akiva, too.

Hence, the message here is that while it seemed to be rah that R’ Akiva was forced to spend the night in the field and couldn’t get a room at the local inn and that his things were taken from him, all that proved not to be rah at all, but rather quite for good as far as he was concerned, since his life was saved. And we’re to surmise that in fact everything is for the good, nothing is rah, and that everything that God has come about in the world is for the ultimate good even when we don’t realize it.

Of course, one could point out that rah did apparently happen to the townspeople who were captured by marauders, as well as to R’ Akiva’s donkey and rooster, but perhaps they have their own tales to tell that would underscore R’ Akiva’s which we’ll never know, after which R’ Akiva would have said to them, “See, didn’t I tell you that everything that the All-Merciful does is for the good?”.

(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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