The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both. — Ecclesiastes 2:14
I recently heard an inspiring story about a Jewish family from New Jersey who bought a new home and found a surprise inside. As the family prepared to move into the home, they discovered a hollow space in one of the walls in the attic. Opening the wall they discovered a box filled with money and valuables. The discovery was worth a huge sum, and the family wasn’t sure if they were ethically entitled to it or required to return it to the original homeowners. They asked their rabbi, who determined that they were required to return the hidden treasure, and so they did.
A short time later, the family’s home burnt to the ground. While they were thankful that no one was hurt, they were disturbed that this could happen to them, and particularly to their home, after the good deed that they had done in returning the money which they could have easily kept. They went back to their rabbi to express their frustration. He simply replied that this wasn’t the end of the story.
A few years later, this family had a son who chose to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. In the summer of 2014, this boy was fighting in the dangerous Gaza Strip. The boy and his unit entered a home to capture a dangerous terrorist. They went up to the attic to capture the terrorist when they started to get orders to leave the house immediately.
It turns out that there were explosives hidden in the wall of the attic. Terrorists were trying to detonate them as the boy and his unit stood by. By miracle, the explosives failed to detonate. Israeli intelligence overheard the terrorists talking about the explosives they were trying to set off and got those boys out of there. The family told the story to their rabbi who said, “Now you see the whole story.”
When we are in the middle of our story, which is most of the time in our lives, it’s hard to understand that God has a good plan for our lives. In Ecclesiastes we read: “The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness.” The Jewish sages explain that this means that the wise are able to see that God has a plan even when they don’t understand it. In contrast, fools fumble in the darkness, feeling that life is haphazard, devoid of direction and meaning.
Our challenge is to keep our eyes open — to see past the darkness to the light on the other side. We need to trust that God will bring all things together for good — all in the right way at the right time.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President