God Gave Us Lemons for a Reason: Turning Them Into Sweet Lemonade Can Be Worthy Exercise
By Lenore Skenazy
Published March 16, 2012, issue of March 23, 2012.
Does every cloud have a silver lining? Or are plenty of them filled with rain that slickens the highway and jackknifes the tractor-trailer?
There’s really no way to answer the question, because what if that tractor-trailer snarls traffic, making the lady 17 cars behind it late for her interview? And what if that means she doesn’t get the job and she’s so depressed she stops at her favorite bakery, where she runs into her high school boyfriend, recently divorced, who’s always carried a torch for her and is about to sell his startup, called Zappos? What I mean is: Do we live in a gam zu l’tovah world or not?
Gam zu l’tovah is a Hebrew expression that translates roughly to “Even this is for the best” — “this” being some rotten thing one is enduring, from a D in physics to a lawnmower-leg accident. Its origins seem traceable to Rabbi Akiva’s teacher, who went by the name Nahum Gamzu.
And so there’s a famous story (well, famous once you start Googling “gam zu l’tovah”) about how Rabbi Akiva went to a town where, as in either all ancient parables or inns, there were no rooms to be had. Unfazed, he camped out in the woods with his donkey, rooster and candle — whereupon a fox ate his rooster, a lion ate the donkey and the wind blew out his candle. Akiva figured this was God’s will.