Sometimes life does not give you what you wish. Take the example of Moses ben Chanoch. A scholar in Babylonia, he took to the sea to raise money for his academy. He was captured by pirates, and eventually ransomed by the Jewish community. This Babylonian scholar ended up in Cordova, Spain. At the time, Spain was a Jewish backwater, and when the congregation recognized they had a learned man in their midst, the Rabbi of the community voluntarily resigned and Rabbi Moses ben Chanoch became the Rabbi of Cordova.
That was a turning point in the history of Spanish Jewry. Until that moment the Asiatic countries were the center of Jewish learning but now things began to shift to Europe. Under Rabbi Moses’ leadership, Spain became a great center of Jewish wisdom, leading to what we know of as the “Golden Age of Spain.”.
No doubt Rabbi Moses ben Chanoch wished to be a scholar in Babylonia before he was derailed by the vagaries of life. Yet his seeming catastrophe became a blessing to Judaism. Often, what we do not choose enables us to achieve what we did not imagine. Take courage, have faith, and remember that from mishaps miracles may grow.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).