SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, July 29, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg
             The Midrash, in its introduction to Eikha Rabba (Petichta 11), presents a series of parallels between sorrowful verses from Eikha and joyous verses from the Torah.  For each pair, the Midrash mournfully observes that had we been worthy, we would be reading the upbeat -verse in the Torah, but instead we must read the lament in Eikha.  The final pair listed consists of two verses that begin with the word “eikha”: Moshe’s lament in Parashat Devarim (1:12), “Eikha esa levadi” (“How can I bear alone”), and the opening verse of Megillat Eikha - “Eikha yasheva vadad” (“How does she sit alone?”).
            The question naturally arises as to why this verse from Parashat Devarim is cited as a festive, joyful Biblical passage. In this verse, Moshe mourns, “How can I bear alone your troubles, your burdens and your quarreling?”  He laments the overbearing burden he needed to bear trying to resolve the people’s conflicts and address all their concerns.  Why is this verse cited as the joyous counterpart of Yirmiyahu’s lament of the fall of Jerusalem?
            The likely answer (as noted by Rav Baruch Epstein, in his Gishmei Berakha commentary to Eikha) is that the Midrash refers also to the preceding verses, where Moshe jubilantly describes Benei Yisrael’s large size: “The Lord your God has made you abundant, and behold, you are today abundant as the stars of the sky.  The Lord, God of your forefathers, shall increase you a thousandfold, and bless you as He has said to you.”  Moshe’s rhetorical question, “Eikha esa levadi” is not a lament, but rather the observation of the difficulties that naturally result from growth and prosperity.  The great blessing of Benei Yisrael’s population growth brought with it the challenges of governance, which necessitated appropriate adjustments to the structure of leadership.  And thus Moshe was not complaining as much as noting the need to appoint additional leaders to assist him.
            If so, then the Midrash here reminds us that blessing and success do not mean perfection, as prosperity gives rise to challenges that need to be overcome.  If we are worthy, the Midrash teaches us, then we will have “happy” problems to address.  Our “laments,” like that of Moshe Rabbenu, will be about the difficulty in handling all that we have been given.  People blessed with a large house “lament” the various maintenance issues, expenses and responsibilities that come with a large property.  People blessed with children “lament” the hardships entailed in tending to all their children’s needs.  People blessed with wealth “lament” the time and pressure involved in managing and protecting their assets.  The Midrash subtly urges us to appreciate these “problems,” to cherish them, to embrace them, and to celebrate them.  These are the kinds of “problems” people have when they are worthy, when they are the beneficiaries of God’s generous blessings.  We must recognize that problems present themselves at every stage and under every circumstance, even when we are blessed and enjoy good fortune.  We are to relish the “problems” that come with success, and recognize that they are far preferable to the actual lament of “Eikha yasheva vadad,” of terrible misfortune, Heaven forbid.  If we have “problems” of “Eikha esa levadi,” the kinds of challenges that result from good fortune and success, then we should warmly and joyously welcome them, rather than ungratefully bemoan them.