The Jewish Eye
Part V: The Big Debate Begins: Eliphaz - Iyov Is Not Perfect
Perek Daled is the beginning of the philosophical debate between Iyov and his friends. The first one to speak is Eliphaz; Rashi tells us that Eliphaz is the son of Esav. He was raised by Yitzchak Avinu, which explains his merit to have the Shechinah rest on him.
Eliphaz strongly rebukes Iyov on his mistaken conclusion that the vicissitudes of man's life are controlled by the cosmic system. Eliphaz claims that man has the absolute ability to affect his environment through his actions. The Malbim tells us however, that the premise that all human efforts will bear fruit, and that man has absolute bechira is not true. Man does have the ability to affect the world through his actions, but not in an absolute way; at times Hashem will interfere with the results. A person may try to attain something, and not only will he not attain it, but his efforts will be the reason for the attainment of the opposite. An example of this is the story of Yosef and his brothers. Yosef's brothers sold him into slavery with the specific goal of preventing him from actualizing his dream of ruling over his brothers. At the end, their actions were the very means through which Yosef attained leadership.
In addition, a person will often attain good without any effort, such as Shaul, who attained malchus in this manner. Some matters are decreed from Hashem, and will happen regardless of human effort, such as the story of Yosef. Other events are a combination of human effort and the will of Hashem, such as one who plants produce which will grow only with the proper amount of rain. And at times, events are solely a result of Hashgacha, such as a poor man who is saved from someone stronger than him, which defies the rule of nature that the strong rule the weak. Sustenance is dependent on hashgacha of the natural forces, such as dew and rain.
At times, the hashgacha of Hashem will cause a mishap to happen to someone to save him from something worse, like someone who falls ill and misses his ship, and later hears that the ship sunk. This hashgacha protects tzaddikim at all times. Eliphaz utilized this point of Hashem's hashgacha over tzaddikim to refute Iyov's complaint of "tzaddik vra lo" and his denial of hashgacha. Eliphaz pointed out that often negative events are for the benefit of the tzaddikim. Eliphaz then conveyed the nevuah he received that the evil that befalls the tzaddik is because of a sin he committed, as it says in Chazal, "There are no yissurim without sin." Iyov considered himself a tzaddik, but Eliphaz asserts that no man can claim that his avodas Hashem is perfect. The greatness of Hashem is unfathomable and His goodness towards man is without measure. Consequently, man who is so lowly compared to Hashem, can never claim that he has perfected his avodah towards Him. If Hashem brings suffering upon him, it's for his ultimate good - to erase his aveiros and save him from a more severe punishment, such as the loss of his soul forever, or an early death. Eliphaz refuted Iyov's claim that he is free of sin, and therefore did not deserve his suffering. He pointed out that Iyov was obviously not perfect in his avodah because as soon as suffering overcame him, he began to complain to Hashem and deny the foundations of emunah. This is a siman that his fear of Hashem was not based on emes, but was rooted in the hope of reward and fear of punishment. One who truly fears Hashem will not lose all happiness when Hashem rebukes him. In fact, Iyov's intolerance of his suffering was actually a sign to others of the verity of Hashem's judgment. If Iyov had remained silent, his righteousness would have been apparent to all, and they would have questioned Hashem's justice. However, once others heard Iyov blasphemous words, they understood that he was deserving of his suffering, and did not question Hashem's ways.
Iyov was initially doubtful of the authenticity of Eliphaz' nevuah; he reasoned that if Hashem wanted to convey a message to him, He would have appeared directly to him. Eliphaz tells him in Perek Hei, "For anger will kill a fool." "You were foolish and angry, and doubted the hashgacha of Hashem, and therefore you do not deserve that the word of Hashem should appear to you." The Malbim tells us that anger towards Hashem not only is futile, but it intensifies Hashem's judgment.
"Can a mortal man be more just than Hashem, can a man be more pure than his Maker?"
In summary, Eliphaz's message is that Iyov is simply unable to be a proper judge of Hashem. Hashem is so lofty and His beneficence is so great that the most righteous of men may fall short in their avodah. Man is incapable of knowing who is fully righteous and therefore is incapable of judging Hashem.
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