You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day — Psalm 91:5
One of the greatest Jewish sages to ever live was a first-century rabbi named Akiva. There are many stories about Akiva, but one is more a tribute to his teacher then about the great sage himself — a man named Nahum Ish Gamzu.
Nahum was his given name, but the other two words were part of a phrase that he was known to say: “This, too, is for the best.” No matter what happened in Nahum’s life, he saw it as a gift from God. Situations that would lead most people to despair had no effect on Nahum. Akiva learned from his example.
In one story, Akiva was traveling at dusk. He needed a place to spend the night, and so he entered the nearest village and knocked on the door of the first house he saw, hoping to find shelter and a place to rest his head. But the homeowners turned him away. As did the next owners, and the next, and the next. No one would take him in! Eventually, Akiva gave up and set out for the woods instead. “This, too, is for the best,” he said.
In the woods, Akiva lit his lamp so that he could study. He also had a donkey with him to help carry his things and a rooster to wake him in the morning. But soon, a lion ate his donkey, another predator devoured his rooster, and a strong wind blew out his candle. But all Akiva said was, “This, too, is for the best.”
When Akiva woke in the morning, he discovered that the village he had passed through the night before had been pillaged by the Romans. The inhabitants were sent into captivity. Finally, Akiva understood God’s providence. Had he stayed in the village, he, too, would have been in captivity. If not for God, the Romans would have heard his donkey or his rooster or seen the light of his candle, and they would have captured him in the woods. Akiva could see how everything truly was for the very best.
In Psalm 91, the psalmist writes, “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” Think about it. There is nothing to fear when we know that every single thing that happens to us is for our own good. We can let go, relax, and enjoy the journey, knowing that all will be well in the end. How much wear and tear on the soul we could save!
Try out Nahum’s phrase and see what it can do for you. Next time you find yourself in a seemingly unfavorable situation, say this: “This, too, is for the best.” One little phrase can change your whole day . . . and your life!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President