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Gam zu l’tovah: This too is for the good!

04/21/2020 03:30:54 PM

Apr21

Adam Rubin

Three simple words. “Gam zu l’tovah.” This too is for the good. A phrase that was always on the lips of one of our great sages, Nachum Ish Gamzu, as related in the Talmud (Taanis 21a). I’ve been trying to use it more often, especially during this most unusual time. It’s been a fast and potent tool to help me reframe a “right now” challenge that is screaming, crying, whining, or kicking in front of me. 

Sometimes we feel in the moment and recognize that a challenge is from Hashem. “Ok, that makes sense.” We feel that we have the wherewithal to deal with it in this moment. It’s often after we’ve had breakfast, a coffee, or a restorative nap. “I’ve got this.” But there are other times when it’s a string of challenges that seems impossible. “Okay Hashem. I get A. I sorta get B. I think I can muscle my way through C. But there’s no way this D is Heaven sent. There’s no way this D makes any sense at all. This, This is ridiculous.”

This is absurd!” “I can’t believe he threw that toy at me again.” “I can’t believe she’s whining about milk again or asked me to get more water after I just sat down and asked them before I sat down, 'Does anyone need more water?' ” “This is over the top. It’s too much. I won’t stand for it!” 

But this too is for the good. 

This baby that inexplicably won’t go down even though I’ve done all the normal steps to help her go down drowsy, but awake is also for the good. This two year old that is asking me on every page of the book, “What’s that Abba? What’s that Abba? What’s that Abba?,” while the bigger kids urge me to go on—also for the good. This big boy who likes climbing on top of my car and telling me that he’s a superhero is also for the good (although he really does need to get down because I don’t want to go to the ER with a broken-armed kid in the middle of this pandemic or anytime for that matter).

Hashem often sends us similar challenges with a slight twist each day (e.g., kid splashes bath on the floor with a cup, then with a brush, then jumps down bath wall or throws toys up and over—he’s got a good arm!). We may ask ourselves, “Why does Hashem send me these same mundane, yet annoying, challenges day after day when I could be learning more Torah, calling a lonely person as a chessed, or meditating about the meaning of life. Instead I’m getting the milk from the fridge for an umpteenth time!” Only Hashem knows. We won’t get the why down here. But if we can plug into gam zu l’tovah—this too is for the good—we can hope to weather the daily jabs and blows of life that otherwise upend us in the aggregate. 

One more note: the this in gam zu l’tovah works for all of Hashem’s curve balls. Whether it’s the garden variety type of home challenges mentioned above or the big ones like an illness, which hits home for so many right now, financial hardships, loneliness or the loss of a loved one, gam zu l’tovah, as articulated by our Sages, has the ability to put us in a proper frame of mind for it all. It ain’t easy. And I don’t mean to suggest that using this tool is a panacea. Nor do I suggest that I’m particularly adept at it (although I’m working on it). Combine with other tools. Practice, practice, practice. And with Hashem’s help, you’ll start to feel the dividends little by little of incorporating this practice into your life. 

Brachos for peace of mind and growth during this time. Let’s daven that we’re able to carry the growth forward when we, G-d willing, emerge from this surreal bubble and return to “regular” life with an expanded view of the gift of in-person, face-to-face human connection.  

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Wed, June 3 2020 11 Sivan 5780