Transforming the Bad to Good

Mark Adriane

The Talmud teaches us, “A person is obligated to bless and acknowledge God over the bad and misfortune, just as he blesses and praises God over the good.” In the same way that a person receives the good in his life with open and manifest joy, a person should accept undesirable things with a positive and grateful attitude because, in truth, it is for good.

The Talmud tells the story of Nachum, who was chosen to represent the community in Israel before the Emperor in Rome. Nachum was given a chest of gold and diamonds to impress the Emperor. Little did Nachum know that overnight, in an inn where he was staying, the valuable contents of the chest were stolen and exchanged for earth and stones.

When Nachum presented the gift to the Emperor, his Highness was furious at the insult and sent Nachum to jail. Nachum’s response was to say, and honestly believe in his heart, “All that God does is for good.”

In the end, it turned out that the earth and stones were endowed with a remarkable quality (they miraculously turned into bows and arrows when thrown) that the Emperor could use against his enemies. The people in Israel were greatly rewarded.

How is it possible to honestly believe everything is for the good when, on the surface, things seem grim?

Once, a student came to his Rabbi and asked for advice on handling all his life’s hardships. This Rabbi advised his student to go to Reb Zushe for guidance. Reb Zushe was a person with every reason to complain. His health was not the best, nor were his affairs at home or his financial situation. When this student knocked on Reb Zushe’s door asking for advice, Reb Zushe advised him to go to someone who had problems and could advise him on how to deal with them.

In the world of Reb Zushe, there were no problems.

It is precisely this quality we attribute to Abraham and Sarah. The Bible says, “All the years of Sarah were equally good.” However, we know that for 90 years, Sarah was barren. She traveled with her husband to Israel, thinking all would be well, and ended up in a land with famine. Forced to go to Egypt, the king abducted her, along with many other similar experiences that appeared to be hardships for Sarah. How can all her years be described as equally good?

The answer is that they were all indeed equally good. As a righteous and Godly woman, Sarah accepted everything that transpired in her life with open arms and in love as coming from an intelligent, merciful God. Sarah realized that God controls and influences everything, even the most minor details, and that because God is kind and good by nature, everything must always be for the best.

When a person cultivates an awareness and continual mindfulness that God is always right there within him and is the reason for everything happening in his life, the obvious conclusion is a complete acceptance of what is and that it is for the good.

We most certainly must deal with the circumstances as they appear; however, in one’s mind, we acknowledge and accept that if all is God, then it must be for the good. 

Abraham was blessed with the virtue of always being satisfied with what he had and never felt he was lacking or dealt an unjust hand. Abraham knew and felt in his heart that God, who is perfect, always does the best for each individual, and therefore there is never anything to complain about.

Mysticism explains that this attitude—seeing everything from a positive perspective because God is the cause of everything—can actually transform what appears as a problematic situation into a happy one, as was the case with Nachum and the chest of stones and sand.

“And those who put their trust in God, kindness (always) surrounds them.

Chapter 122

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" Rabbi Ezagui opened in 1987 the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the Island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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