Rabbi David Ashear
If a person tries to do something good but obstacles come in the way, he should not interpret this to mean that Hashem wants him to stop. We do not know how to interpret “signs.” Our job is to try our hardest to do what is correct, and make every effort to surmount any obstacles that we confront along the way. For all we know, Hashem may have placed the obstacles in our way for the precise opposite reason: so we can earn more reward by having to invest extra effort to overcome the hurdles. Only after one has tried his hardest, there is nothing left to do, and he sees his efforts did not succeed, should he then conclude that Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, felt that this undertaking should not work out, and he should accept Hashem’s will joyfully.
For example, if a person wakes up early to pray with a minyan, but when he goes outside he sees his car is blocked, he should not say, “I guess Hashem does not want me to go to shul this morning, so I won’t go.” Instead, he should explore other ways of getting to shul. For all he knows, Hashem may have decided to present this challenge so he can overcome it and his prayers will then be especially powerful, and that day he needs a powerful tefillah. If, however, one made every effort to get to shul, but through circumstances beyond his control he missed the minyan, then he should accept the facts that Hashem, for whatever reason, did not want him to pray with a minyan that day.
This lesson applies to many different areas in life. We do not know how to read “signs,” and we should not even try. We should always just make our best effort to do what is right.
One area in which this lesson is especially relevant and important is shidduchim. Sometimes the road is bumpy and laden with large obstacles. When things do not work out immediately, one should not rush to decide that Hashem does not want the shidduch to come to be. Instead, he or she should try to do what seems to be in his best interests, and only if all efforts fail can it be conclusively determined that Hashem did not want this shidduch to work.
In the Torah, we find two stories of shidduchim: one which was completed very quickly and smoothly, and another which was plagued by hardship before working out for the best. And both were quite clearly Hashem’s will. In Parashat Chayei Sarah, we read that Avraham sent Eliezer to find a match for Yitzhak. Avraham did not give any detailed instructions, saying only that Eliezer should go to Avraham’s homeland and find a girl. We might have expected this to be a difficult process, with so little information to work with, but in a matter of several hours the right girl was found and the shidduch was finalized.
Later, in Parashat Vayeitze, we read that Yaakov Avinu’s parents sent him to Paran Aram with very detailed instructions, telling him to marry one of Lavan’s daughters. It looked like it would be a very simple and straightforward process, but in the end seven years passed until Yaakov was able to marry, and even then he was given Leah, and not the daughter he preferred to wed. At that point, we might have expected him to say to himself, Look, what can I do? It must be that Hashem does not want me to marry Rachel. But this is not how he approached the situation. He persisted, doing what he thought was the right thing, and ultimately married Rachel. As it turned out, these obstacles that had to be overcome are what enabled Yaakov and Rachel to have children together. Our sages teach that Rachel was physically incapable of conceiving, but Hashem gave her the ability to bear children in reward for her giving the signals to Leah before her wedding to Yaakov, to spare her embarrassment. It was specifically because of the difficulties they confronted that the shidduch worked out as well as it did.