- Rabbi Isaac Roussel
Bereshit: Cure Before the Wound
In the Talmud, Tractate Megillah, which primarily discusses the story of Purim, Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba quotes Rabbi Yochanan as saying that God caused Pharaoh to become angry with his cupbearer so that he would be there for when Joseph was thrown into prison. It was Joseph interpreting the cupbearer’s dream that eventually led to Joseph’s redemption. Thus the means of Joseph’s salvation was established before he was ever accused by Potiphar.
In like manner, in this same passage the Talmud asks how did Mordechai become aware of the plot to kill the king? (If you recall, Mordechai revealed the plot and thus became favored by King Achaverosh. This ultimately led, along with Esther’s valiant actions, to the salvation of the Jews from Haman’s plot.) Rabbi Yochanan explains that the conspirators were plotting in their own language in front of Mordechai assuming that he couldn’t understand them. Unbeknownst to them Mordechai was a member of the Sanhedrin and was therefore required to speak 70 languages. Therefore, he knew what they were talking about and revealed their plot to the authorities. This number of 70 most likely corresponds to the 70 nations of the world listed after the flood, meaning that to ensure justice members of the Sanhedrin should not go through an interpreter, therefore they needed to speak all of the languages.
The Book of Esther says that after these events, the king promoted Haman. After what events? Reish Lakish, another prominent Talmudic rabbi, states that it was after Mordechai saved the king’s life for “The Holy One, Blessed be He, does not strike at the Jewish people unless He has already created a remedy for them beforehand” And then he quotes Hosea 7:1, “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered...”
This has led to the rabbinic dictum that God provides a cure before He inflicts the wound.
In the story of the spies, they are commanded to investigate the Land to see if there are goodly trees and fruits. They return reporting that there indeed are trees and wonderful fruits, but also that they are afraid of its inhabitants.
We just finished celebrating Sukkot wherein we have the mitzvah to wave branches and fruit of trees before Hashem. This can be viewed as a tikkun, a repair of the spies, making up for their sins. Just as they brought back branches and fruit but in fear, we wave branches and fruit in obedience and confidence. But herein is where we see this rabbinic principle in play, because God commanded us to wave the lulav and etrog, before the event of the spies. God provided the cure before He inflicted the wound! (Or before the wound happened through our own sinfulness).
Right now we are dealing with this COVID-19 plague. But even here God has provided the cure before the wound. It is out there, it's just up to us to uncover it, which our scientists are doing.
This is true in our own lives as well. It is very common for people to face some crisis and then discover that the solution was already present; maybe not to solve the crisis but to deal with it. It is up to us to discover the cure; to wave the lulav so to speak. Maybe God’s provision is through people He has brought into our lives. Or maybe it is a lesson that we have learned from previous situations. The fact is that God sometimes provides in ways that we don’t expect and so we have to think outside of the box when looking for it. God provided for our forefathers in the wilderness, but they complained because it didn’t come in the guise that they were expecting. May we not fall into that trap.
Ultimately, God’s cure may be just simply more of God. One of His goals is for us to live in union with Him and therefore rather than removing the obstacle or trouble, He uses it to call us to Himself. Our perennial question should be “God, what do you have for me in this?”
Another of His goals is for us to be a source of blessing to those around us. We cannot be such if we are consumed with fear, worry, anger, and doubt about the troubles that assail us. It is only when we focus on the cure and not the wound, that we are freed to love others.
At this point you are probably wondering what this all has to do with Bereshit and the creation of the world. It is because this principle is at play here as well. In our Torah reading today, we read about the creation of the world. In our Besorah reading, we learn that Messiah Yeshua was present and actively involved in its creation. But in Yochanan’s revelation we are told that he was also slain on our behalf even before creation itself! In chapter 13 it states that “Everyone living on earth will worship it [the Beast] except those whose names are written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb slaughtered before the world was founded.”
The Messiah was slain before Creation and before the Fall! Hashem provided the cure before the wound! What does this mean? Well, I think that it is expressing that God is beyond time and therefore his death in the first century is really this miraculous event that stands outside of time.
We have a great God who provides the cure before the wound.
May we have faith in His faithfulness and seek to find the cure in the midst of our woundedness.
May we seek the strength and wisdom of His Messiah who provided the Ultimate Cure before the foundation of the world.
And thereby will find peace in the midst of the storms of life, and become a source of blessing to others.