Absolute Mercy


Hashem has endless compassion and all His ways are merciful. We don’t always feel that mercy, but we must know it is there. Sometimes we pray and beg Hashem to help us with our needs. We know how capable He is of helping, but we don’t see changes. Out problem persists, and we wonder, Doesn’t Hashem see how much we are begging Him? Doesn’t He know how badly we need help?
It is those times that we have to use our emunah to trust that Hashem is being merciful, and that He knows how to help us better than we do.
For eight years, thousands of tefillot were offered on behalf of Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin to be released from prison. There were gatherings all over the world before a judge was due to review his case and possibly reduce his harsh 27-year sentence. Yet, after all our prayers, the judge did not change anything. We wondered, What happened to all the prayers?
Rabbi Meir Wizman pointed out the following: Had the judge reduced the sentence to 17 years, we probably would have been happy with the fruits of our labor – 10 years less in prison. Had that happened, however, Sholom Rubashkin’s case would not have been brought up again for further review. He would have already benefitted from the reduction of his term.
It was because nothing was done for him at that time that the door later opened to his sentence being commuted! All the tefillot were heard; all the tefillot were used. What seemed to us like cruelty at the time was, in fact, the greatest mercy of Hashem.
The pasuk says (Beresheet 45:1), Yosef could not restrain himself [he had to reveal who he was to his brothers]. Soon after that, however, the pasuk says that he cried on Binyamin’s shoulder. Rashi writes that he was crying over the future destruction of the two Batei Mikdash.
We ask, “Why would Yosef cry about that at the moment?” The Sefat Emet (Vayigash, 5641) tells us that Yosef was trying to bring about a full atonement for what his brothers had done to him. Had he waited a little longer, and had hey agonized a little more, the atonement they needed would have been achieved. But Yosef could not restrain himself. His emotions overwhelmed him.
Afterward, Yosef saw in a prophecy that because the brothers’ sin was not totally exonerated, the two Batei Mikdash would ultimately be destroyed. That is why he cried then and there. Yosef was not able to hold back – his brothers were pleading with him.
But Hashem is able to hold back. He refrains from giving us immediate benefits in order to give us the ultimate benefits! At the time we experience our difficulty, it seems cruel that Hashem is not helping. In reality, however, it is mercy.
Rabbi Wizman relates:
Zechariah hosted a class in his home and he would offer tea to all those who attended. For some reason, he poured only a half cup at a time. If anyone wanted more, he would serve them another half cup.
One day, he told his son that he would be away for the next class and asked him to be in charge. “But remember,” he said, “Make sure to pour everybody only a half cup of tea at a time.”
“Why are you so careful to pour only a half cup?” his son asked. “Doesn’t it seem stingy?’
Zechariah replied, “There are two people who attend the class whose hands shake. I don’t want to give everyone a whole cup and them a half – it would embarrass them. Therefore, I just give everyone a half cup at a time and no one knows why.”
Here we have an example of something that looked ugly; only offering a half cup at a time. That half cup, however, was overflowing with kindness. This is how we are to view Hashem. Even what appears to be cruelty is nothing less than absolute mercy.