Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Im Yirtzeh Hashem


Operation Inspiration


As someone whose special gifts lie in utilizing the English language, I often note when people use words incorrectly. For example, supposably. That’s not actually a real word. The correct word is supposedly, meaning according to what someone said or expected to be the fact. “Is his homework done, Imma?” “Supposedly.” It can be used with a somewhat hesitant or sarcastic tone, but why go down that road now? Let’s assume he did the homework.

Sometimes people will say, “The guys at work want to start a football pool. I’m not adverse to the idea per se.” Now you may not have a problem with them making a football pool (it’s a type of betting or gambling group, I believe) but you have a problem with using the right words. If you’re not against something, you’re not averse to it. Adverse means negative or harmful. For example, using the wrong word could have an adverse effect on your getting a job as a journalist. 

This, of course, leads us into the black hole which is the effect/affect vortex, where people don’t realize that you affect something else, but the change you have is the effect. But let’s leave these alone for now and jump to a phrase that I feel many people misuse as well. That phrase is, “Im Yirtzeh Hashem.”

“Are you coming for Shabbos?” “Im Yirtzeh Hashem.” “Are you going to Israel next year?” “Im Yirtzeh Hashem.” When we say these words, we are putting the future in Hashem’s hands, which is as it should be. The Baalei Mussar say that a person who has worked on himself will always use these words. So, what’s my issue with them?

I think we’ve possibly lost some of the meaning behind the phrase we may spout by rote. “Will you be attending the shiur?” “Im Yirtzeh Hashem.” Well, let’s think about that. Don’t we believe Hashem wants you to attend the shiur? If He desires it but you don’t; if you decide you’re too tired to go and opt instead to play with your kid’s toy drone for two hours, was that Im Yirtzeh Hashem genuine?

Often the phrase Im Yirtzeh Hashem is used as an out for us to avoid committing to something. I don’t want to be held responsible if I don’t come through, so by saying this phrase (aka IYH) I’m not misleading anyone or promising. It’s like throwing in that ubiquitous disclaimer, “Bli Neder.”

Essentially, IYH has come to mean, “If I can make it happen.” Don’t hold me to it, but I’ll see if my schedule allows. The problem is that it’s only half the equation. The other part of it is realizing WHY we couldn’t make it happen. The crux of the matter is always, “If Hashem wants it.”

“I’m going to Florida for a vacation,” one might say. But how do you know? You may have booked the tickets and requested the time off of work, but anything can happen. So many things can affect the plans that one has to remember that he isn’t the one making the plan, but Hashem. That’s why “good people” say it, because it reminds them of Who is really calling the shots.

When there was an election, people came out and campaigned for their candidate. If he didn’t win, do you know why that was? “Im Yirtzeh Hashem – it wasn’t Hashem’s will.” It wasn’t the other side playing games or being fraudulent. It was Hashem doing what He does best, running the world in a way that we often don’t understand.

When we try to get a job but it doesn’t happen, that’s Hashem. When we get the job, that’s Him, too. The goal of these words is to ingrain in ourselves that everything that happens, regardless of what we wanted, expected, or tried to make happen, is the will of Hashem.

Two men were discussing the weather. One said, “The weather this week will be the kind that pleases me.” The other asked, “Oh? What weather is that?” “It will be what weather pleases G-d,” said the first, “and what please G-d, pleases me.” We never know what will come or what will happen, just that the will of Hashem will prevail.

I’ll leave you off with a thought. The legislators in New York decided that we had to stop using plastic bags. The public didn’t get much chance to respond, but the law passed. With news of the impending bag ban, some people began storing them away for the future. Bag ban preppers built silos which they filled with the shopping bags they so dearly loved. (OK, this part was poetic license. I don’t think people went that far.) Then what happened? The law allowed for us to buy bags in bulk; due to the virus, the ban was postponed. Bottom line, despite all our dire predictions, be they paper, plastic, election or other, what happens will be what He wants to happen and that will be fine with me. Im Yirtzeh Hashem.


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