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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Careful what you wish for

Daf Yomi Kesubos 81

Many years ago, a friend of mine was engaged to a young lady who was very pretty, but not the nicest person.  Just before the marriage, she decided to break it off.  He was devastated.  He wanted nothing in the world other than to be married to her but she wasn’t interested anymore.  He prayed and prayed to G-d that He would change her mind.  But to no avail.

A couple of years later, he met a lovely young lady and they got married.  Today, thank G-d, they have an incredible marriage with six beautiful children.  Meanwhile, I recently heard about his first fiancée.  She’s been married and divorced three times and has never quite gotten her life together.

Concerning the Sotah, the Torah declares, “If a man's wife goes astray, and acts unfaithfully against him, he shall bring his wife to the priest, and the priest shall have in his hand the water of bitterness.”
We learned in a Mishnah:  If the husband died before she had a chance to drink the bitter water, Beis Shamai says, ‘they receive their ketubah entitlement and do not drink.’  Beis Hillel says, ‘either they drink or they do not take the ketubah entitlement.’

The Sotah waters are only administered when a husband warns his wife not to seclude herself with another man and she disobeys his plea.  Imagine the stroke of luck this woman feels she’s just experienced.  Clearly their marriage was on the rocks and she’s gone looking elsewhere.   But then she gets caught and she’s praying and praying for a way out.  Lo and behold, before she’s had a chance to drink the bitter waters, her husband dies.  Her first reaction is a feeling of relief.  But then she’s overcome by guilt. 
‘Do you think I killed him?’ she says to herself.

The good news is that while you might be able to pray for someone else’s good fortune, your prayers can’t really bring misfortune upon them if there is no Heavenly decree to that effect. But when it comes to your own situation, you certainly need to be careful what you pray for.

Sometimes you pray for something and G-d answers your prayers.  Other times you pray and G-d appears unresponsive.  So you pray harder; still no response.  You then go into overdrive praying for something that the Almighty knows is a bad idea.  Our Sages tell us something funny: if you pray hard enough for something, sometimes G-d will say, ‘Fine, if you insist.  I’ll grant you your prayer and let you learn the hard way why this is a bad idea.’

We only see things in life through our mortal eyes in the here and now.  G-d sees all possible outcomes and the big picture.  Sure, He wants you to pray for your needs and wants.  But if you don’t get what you’re asking for, don’t stop believing in Him.  He doesn’t want you to get hurt.  He knows what’s best for you.   Sometimes you just have to accept His decision even if you don’t understand.  When you start arguing with Him and thinking you know what’s best, He might just allow you to learn from your own mistakes.  Don’t go there!  Instead, allow Him to decide who you marry and who you don’t; who you work for and who you don’t; which house you live in and which you don’t.

Be careful what you pray for.  Trust in the Almighty to do what’s best.  May you merit unwavering faith in Heaven when He answers your prayers and even when He appears unresponsive!