By Rabbi Yechezkel Spanglet
Last week we asked how yesurim can bring a person to greatness. Let’s first examine the purpose for yesurim in general through the eyeglasses of our Torah luminaries. Many people view suffering only as something painful and agonizing. However, it takes on a new perspective if we adopt the reality that there is a reason and purpose why the All-Merciful One allows these situations to occur in His world. Let’s elucidate some of these reasons:
- Atonement- Suffering is sometimes part of the teshuva process. (Rambam-Hilchos Teshuva) Our first reaction to suffering is to examine our behavior (Berachos 5a). Suffering purifies a person in a way that fire removes the dross from silver. When a person ingests poison, it’s a long painful process to remove it from the body. Similarly, when a person allows spiritual toxins to enter his neshama, it sometimes requires harsh measures to remove them. (Making Meaning Out Of Our Suffering, Rabbi Yaakov Biefus). If a person accepts rebuke, begins afresh and improves his ways, he may rejoice in his hardships for he will receive a double benefit- Hashem values his acceptance of yesurim and grants him a new slate. (Sha’arei Teshuva, Sha’ar 2).
- Overcoming Adversity – Facing adversity helps us actualize our potential. The challenges that we face often set us on a path of improved Torah learning and observance, responsibility, leadership and maturity. When we face new difficulties, we become more capable of managing situations that otherwise would not have been possible. Suffering and adversity also humble us.
- Strengthens and Uplifts – Managing challenges strengthens us emotionally. A man once approached the Chazon Ish and bemoaned the difficulties and hardships that he was undergoing. The Chazon Ish him, saying, “If you would not have any challenges you would crumble like straw.”
- Tikun Olam – Hashem orchestrates events to bring the world to its final tikun, to its state of perfection. Sometimes, the Infinite Kind One must rectify the corruption and spiritual damage brought about by man’s non-atoned sins. Hashem chooses a few special tzaddikim through whose suffering he will purge the spiritual impurity of others and continue the process of tikun. Such select tzadikim earn a place closest to the Shechinah as well as those who gave their lives Al Kiddush Hashem. Similarly, some special tzaddikim are chosen because of their striving to be ovdei Hashem earning them a higher place in the Olam Ha’emes through yissurim shel ahava (Ramchal, Derech Hashem).
A frum Jew In one of the death camps used to hum constantly. Another Jew confronted him in frustration. “Excuse me, do you see something to be happy about in this Gehinom on earth?” The man replied, “Wherever Hashem places me, it’s my job to be an ovaid Hashem.”
Few or none of us, Baruch Hashem, have faced the horrors of the camps. Nevertheless, today’s nisyonos are very challenging.
More to come on how to grow from yesurim.