If you’ve never played or heard of The Legend of Zelda, you’re probably over 40 and your kids don’t own a Nintendo system.
But a quick catch up, the Legend of Zelda is a series of magical/medievalish adventuring video games where you explore a vast world, usually called Hyrule and usually in an effort to save a princess. Among other objectives, you spend most of your time in a number of dungeons. These dungeons contain rooms filled with danger, puzzles, enemies, and a boss (really big bad guy at the end of the dungeon).
Not only are these bosses stronger and bigger than regular enemies, they’re also invulnerable to your regular attacks! So what do you do? Well another thing found in the dungeon is a SPECIAL WEAPON. Sometimes it’s a bow and arrow, sometimes it’s a special magic wand. But whatever it is, you can be sure it is the boss’s weakness. Now with your new weapon you can be successful.
So… what what does this have to do with God and Judaism?
You see dungeons are designed in such a way that you can’t even get to the boss without the special weapon. Which means when you walk in that room to fight it, you already have what you need. This is a profoundly important Jewish concept. Talmud Megillah puts it plainly; Hashem sends the refuah (cure) before the makkah (problem).
Judaism firmly believes that when you have a problem, you should look back to what you already have for the solution. Whether it is our talents, tools, contacts, or other resources, something has been given to us (sometimes very recently, sometimes something we’ve been holding on to for a long time and forgotten about) for this very problem.
If we already have the solution, why even give us the problem?
Well for this answer I’ll go back to Zelda. Not all Zelda games are as good as others. Sometimes when you’re done with the dungeon, you never use the special weapon again. But in the good Zelda games, not only do you use the weapon throughout the course of the game, there is a learning curve to master it. And it changes how you play the game. Before you ran around, swinging at enemies with your sword, but now you can shoot enemies with your bow and arrow, or you can ride your horse and shoot them, you can open up areas that were closed to you, you can even win money and increase your health bar with it. A whole new paradigm of playing the game opens up and all because you got a simple bow and arrow.
That’s how we should look at these solutions to our problems. Relationships to cultivate, skills to develop, tools to share. Not as a key that unlocks a door and to be discarded, but as a new way of engaging in life.