On Sukkot, we read Megillat Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) that tells us “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” King Solomon shares how everything is temporal in this world and seems meaningless.
Yet in reflecting on this, we can learn that in what we perceive as meaningless, there is truly so much meaning when we understand the bigger picture of what is happening to us and perhaps why. Is it to learn something? To give something? To grow as a person? To leave a valuable piece of ourselves behind to our children and grandchildren?
In this regard, I reiterate a story that this gentleman from Australia gave in a speech at Synagogue today. He told about how he was in London earlier this year helping his sick brother. And on the way back from visiting his brother at the hospital, this man got a stoke in the car and couldn’t move his legs. He retold how he asked himself: How is it that I am doing good by my sick brother, and this happens to me–where is the justice in that?
Forward in time a number of months, and he goes for some tests to follow up on why the stroke happened to him, and they do various heart tests that started to show some trouble and then finally an MRI that showed a near-catastrophic issue.
He went to the doctor for the results and the doctor said: “Your heart arteries are blocked.”
He asked the doctor: “How blocked?”
The doctor said: “95%!”
The man asked in a state of complete shock: “How long do I have?”
The doctor said: “One week!”
The man explained how the doctor told him what he had with his heart is called, “The Widow Maker.”
He asked the doctor desperately: “Is there anything that can be done?”
And that week, they put a stent in his heart, and his artery went from 95% clogged to near 100% open again. After the one week that they had given him to live, it is now months later and he is healthy again!
He told us what he learned from this: “If not for the stroke, I would’ve never gotten the tests that ultimately led to the discovery of the heart blockage that saved my life. What we think is such a terrible tragedy can turn out to be such a miracle!”
In life, bad things happen, and we often ask ourselves like this man, “Why?” and say to ourselves or maybe even scream to G-d: “It’s not fair.” But then only afterward do we see how the bad thing may have really turned out to be a good thing. G-d works in mysterious ways. And we need to be so eternally grateful to Him. He is wondrous and magnanimous! And therefore life has meaning even when we don’t see it at first.