All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good,
so with the sinful;
as it is with those who take oaths,
so with those who are afraid to take them. — Ecclesiastes 9:2
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other African-American leaders began their heroic march for civil rights and fight for justice, the Jewish community stood side-by-side on the frontlines of faith. As we honor Dr. King’s legacy this month, let Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s reflections on justice inspire and encourage you.
For more on the historic and spiritual bonds between the African-American and Jewish community, download our complimentary booklet here.
In a perfect world, only good stuff would happen to good people, and the bad things would only happen to bad people, right?
What if even the negative experiences we have are all for the best?
In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon point out that: “All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad . . . As it is with the good, so with the sinful . . . ” In other words, good and bad happen to everyone, no matter if the person is good or bad.
In the next verse, Solomon called this state of affairs “evil” because it sometimes caused people to abandon the ways of the righteous since they saw no benefit in being a good person in this world. Indeed, for true justice to be meted out and the ultimate reward to be given, one must have faith and wait until the afterlife.
However, in terms of experiencing difficulties in this world, even if you are a good person, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. As history has proven, and the Bible has illustrated time and time again, it’s often through our greatest pain that we enjoy our greatest gain.
As anyone who has taken up exercise in order to lose weight or to build muscle has figured out, if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not working. We have to feel the burn to shed the pounds or feel the pain to gain muscle. It works the same way with our inner selves. If we want to grow to our fullest potential, it takes challenges, difficulties, and at times, some pain – but never more than we can handle.
God is our ultimate personal trainer, and no matter where we might fall in the scale of good to bad, we all have some improving to do. God sets up the perfect tests and the perfect challenges so that we can transform into the very best versions of ourselves.
Take King David for example. According to Jewish tradition, he was alienated by his brothers and father who suspected that his status was questionable. He was rejected and alone his entire childhood. But in that painful time, David learned that God was his most reliable confidant. So when the time came to slay the giant Goliath, David was ready.
Let’s embrace this attitude. Instead of questioning God when He challenges us with difficulties in life, let’s thank Him for the opportunity to become better. We are all going to experience hardships, just as Solomon wrote. There is no choice in this and nothing we can do to avoid it. However, we are able to choose how we handle our struggles and who we become as a result.
Download your complimentary copy of our booklet, On the Frontlines of Faith, which explores the historic and spiritual bond between the African-American and Jewish communities during the Civil Rights Movement.
Honor Rabbi Eckstein