A Dose of Emunah

By BJLIfe/Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Posted on 01/28/18

There is a story that is told about Napoleon Bonaparte.  He would often dress as one of the people to hear what was being said about him.  On one such occasion, he had entered a coffee house and sat down in disguise, along with one of his officers.

Unfortunately for Napoleon, he was recognized.  On the far end of the coffee house some ruffians had instantly contrived a plan.  The plan was to kidnap the disguised Emperor and hold him for a large ransom.

One of the officers accompanying Napoleon realized what was transpiring and instantly slapped Napoleon across the face, yelling, “You idiot!  Can’t you drink a lousy coffee without spilling it on the person next to you?!”

The ruffians concluded that this man is surely not the emperor in disguise for no one would ever dare slap the emperor.  The ruffians returned to their own affairs.  Napoleon’s life was saved.

The officer later approached the Emperor and apologized for his improper behavior and inappropriate words.  Napoleon responded, “Are you kidding?  What you did was extraordinary!  It was the best thing that could have happened, and your actions saved my life!”

The story illustrates a fundamental concept when discussing G-d.

There is an expression which states, “Don’t look at the cup as if it is half empty – look at it as if it is half full.”  Both perspectives have it wrong.  The truth is that the cup is always completely full.  G-d is so filled with love and compassion toward us that He is always showering us with good and what is in our best interest.

The problem is that, at times, we may view things negatively as if the cup is only partially filled with good and that the rest is air.  This perspective is incorrect.  The cup is always full.  We just fail at seeing it.

We must teach ourselves that seemingly negative things do not happen to us – they happen for us. This idea must be entrenched within us and is the reason that the sages ordained that immediately before we recite the Shma we declare the realization of G-d’s intense love for us:  Ahavah Rabbah ahavtanu or Ahavas Olam.

This is the meaning of the expression of the sages, (Brachos 54a) – k’shaim she’mevarchin al hatov kach mevarchin all haRah.  It has to be k’shaim – equally -  because the cup is always full.  This is also the reason we recite in Hallel ki gavar aleinu chasdo – we are showered and perhaps even overwhelmed with His goodness.

The slap that Napoleon received is not merely a silver lining to a dark cloud.  It was the source of his entire rescue.

This perspective helps make the point that G-d is not only the Creator of all, He is also the source of all that is good.  G-d is the ultimate Giver.  He wishes to reward His creations.  Reward, however, may only be earned, it cannot simply be given for no purpose.

Thus, G-d did not just create the world and leave – He continuously gives.  He is the G-d of history as well – the One who took us out of Egypt.  The first commandment states this explicitly.

He created it all to give to us - so that we can earn reward.  We earn reward by emulating Him and by making correct choices in doing His will.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com