Sometimes it is hard to feel that G-d is in our corner. It feels as if Murphy’s Law is G-d’s Law. Everything that could go wrong, does, and G-d does nothing to save the day. The baby is ill, the roof is leaking, the coffee maker is on the blink, and the landlord wants the rent. Where is G-d?
The answer is, He is in our corner. It may not seem that way, but that is where He is.
A Remarkable Story
Let me tell you a story about Chana Chaya Bailey. She was in the process of a vicious divorce from an abusive husband. At the same time, she was in recovery with Overeaters Anonymous, styled after the famous 12 step AA program. As part of the program, she had to write an inventory of everything she did in life that she regretted. She took the project seriously and wrote down every detail she ever regretted.
To her horror, her soon to be ex husband found her inventory and distributed copies to all the parents of the school where she taught. He also gave a copy to his lawyer and planned to use it to wrest custody of their children from her. He didn’t want the kids, but he wanted to hurt her.
Her world fell apart and she saw no solution. In a desperate panic, she called several OA friends and with their help, she realized that she was not in control, G-d was. If she continued on her path doing all she could to generate positive energy, G-d would take care of her. The judge would surely recognize the evil absurdity of her husband using the OA program against her and would rule in her favor.
That evening she was scheduled to speak at an OA meeting in Oceanside, NY. Chana dismissed all her concerns and went to the meeting. She gave her talk and explained what was going on in her life. She said that her husband was abusive to the children and that they would not be safe with him. She proclaimed her certainty that the higher power would not let it happen and the judge would throw out the case.
After the talk, Chana was approached by an elderly lady who was interested in her story. She told her that she too had a husband in her youth who had abused her children. After that, Chana went home.
The next Sunday, Chana received a call from her husband’s lawyer. This was a high-priced divorce lawyer with a reputation for fierceness. His approach was to systematically destroy the other party and get the best possible deal for his client. Chana was understandably unwilling to reply when he asked whether she was the one who presented at the recent OA meeting in Oceanside.
Who knew how he might use that information. Would he sue her for defamation? Would he use it as leverage to force her another concession? She was loathe to answer. But then the lawyer explained that his mother had attended the talk and he realized that he was the lawyer. When Chana heard this, she realized the old lady she has talked to was his mother and she admitted that she gave the talk.
The lawyer asked whether her husband had, indeed, abused the children. Chana replied that he had, and the lawyer said that since she said it at an OA meeting, it must be true. People don’t lie at such meetings.
The lawyer explained that it had been his intention to use the inventory to torture Chana and force her to settle for next to nothing. However, because he had been abused by his father, he would make sure his client would not end up with the kids. He would call Chana’s lawyer that very night and by tomorrow morning she would have a fair settlement.
The very event that she thought would destroy her, turned into her biggest asset. It wasn’t the judge who turned on her husband. The case never made it to court. It stopped with the lawyer.
This is what I mean when I say that G-d is in our corner. Sometimes we feel that we are at the end of our rope when a major disaster strikes. We think this disaster will be our undoing, our ruination, but trust in G-d. He is in our corner. The very disaster often becomes our salvation.
This will help us understand what appears to be a redundant expression in the Torah. After being absent from home for thirty-six years, Jacob had finally returned. He was eager for a reunion with his brother Esau, hoping to be forgiven for stealing their father’s blessings all those years ago.
It turned out that Esau had not forgiven and even hired four hundred mercenaries to attack Jacob. Fearing for his life and those of his family, Jacob prayed to G-d. “Deliver me from the hands of my brother, the hands of Esau, for I fear that he will come and strike me, the children, and their mother. And you said, good I will do good to you, and I will make your seed as numerous as the sand on the sea that cannot be counted because they are many.”
You might have noticed the redundancy. “You said, good I will do good.” Why did Jacob repeat his words, good I will do good?
Because You Promised
Here is what Jacob meant. Because You said good, therefore, I will do good. My situation seems forlorn. I don’t know how I might survive the coming attack. But you said good— whatever happens to me will be for the good. Therefore, I will do good—I will trust that it is good.
When life seems darkest, when things seem bleakest, G-d comes along and shows us that it is not dark after all. It is just a prelude to the greatest good. Our response to the bleakest moments of life should not be to fret and fear. Rather, we should prepare for the wonderful good that is soon to come because we trust that G-d is our corner. If we trust G-d to be in our corner, that is precisely where He will be.
Because I Trust
This is yet another way to understand the apparent redundancy. We can understand this passage not just as Jacob’s words to G-d, but also as G-d’s words to us.
“You said good, I will do good.” If you, the Jewish person, say that it is good, G-d will, indeed, make it good. If we trust in Him to make things good, moreover, if we trust that what was done is already good, we will merit seeing the goodness. If we trust Him to be in our corner, He will indeed be in our corner.
This is also the message printed directly on the American dollar. In G-d We Trust. We don’t just believe in Him. We trust Him to come through for us. We trust that when things seam bleak, when the bills pile up, when there are more invoices than paystubs, He will be in our corner. We don’t lose heart. We pull out the dollar and read its message. In G-d we trust. G-d is in our corner.
Henya Federman co directs Chabad of The Virgin Islands with her husband. Last week she jumped into the ocean to save her four-month-old daughter, who tragically did not survive. Henya was airlifted to a hospital in Miami where she is fighting for her life. Let’s do a Mitzvah in her merit, let’s support the Federman family, and let’s believe that G-d is in our corner. It will be good.