Growing In Emunah – Coping With Suffering

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By Rabbi Yechezkel Spanglet             

These days as we approach the geulah, there are more nisyonos and suffering than ever before. Without emunah, making sense of and coping with suffering would be a non-starter.

Before we tackle the actual issue, we must establish some premises based on the teachings of our Chachamim and Meforshim. Firstly, we are not privy to Hashem’s ways and reasons. This can be illustrated in the following mashal:

An avid art fan visits an exhibition of paintings and portraits. He arrives early and cannot contain himself. He jumps over the partition rope and sneaks a view of one of the paintings under the left side of the veil. Making sure no one notices him, he peeks under the middle and right corner. Very disappointed that the portrait lacks a proper array of colors and dimensions, he decides to exit the show. At that moment, a bell rings and the veils are removed. He is thunderstruck. He mentions to his friend standing by, “It’s incredible! I saw an inferior portrait- this is a masterpiece!” His friend, jabbing him gently, remarked, “That’s because you did not see the total picture.”

Only the Al-mighty, Who is totally cognizant of past, present and future, sees the entire picture and guides the events of His world in the most correct and just way.

The second premise is that not only does Hashem possess infinite knowledge, but His purpose in creation is to shower this goodness upon His creatures, particularly Klal Yisrael (Derech Hashem-Chapter 1). Whatever transpires in this world is an expression of His desire for us to be beneficiaries of His overflowing kindness. Furthermore, Hashem’s actions are for the best and in our best interests. (Brachos 60b)

Thirdly, Hashem is guiding the world toward the final tikun, that is, our ultimate purpose. Every event of history brings us closer to this goal. (Lekach Tov, Perek Emunah V’nechamah)

Therefore, we cannot view suffering in terms of its immediate ramifications, but rather how it serves our future good individually and collectively.  Let’s clarify this further with another mashal:

A man from the jungles of Africa wanted to learn about civilization. One of his first visits in the big city was to a hospital. He was impressed with the shiny floors and long hallways. He stopped by a wide set of doors and peaked through the peephole. He saw a masked man raising a knife to a helpless victim lying motionless on a table. “This is civilization?” he cried out.

He thought the “cruel” masked man was ready to murder the victim in cold blood – but in fact, the surgeon was trying to save the patient’s life. What an incredible contrast of appearance versus reality! What we see at the moment sometimes appears to be the worst possible scenario, but in the end it could be the root of our yeshua. We will elaborate more in future essays.

On a personal rather than collective level we view suffering, sickness and failures as something “bad”, something that causes agony and distress. Although such a person who undergoes such difficulties should be treated with great empathy and understanding, the way we perceive and react to such circumstances makes a big difference in how we cope. The posuk says שבע יפול צדיק וקם (A tzadik will fall seven times and will rise.). Yes, we could explain this posuk to mean that the tzadik will elevate himself in spite of his nisyonos.. However, we can understand this posuk to mean he will become a tzadik becomes  because he falls. And within this meaning is an even deeper meaning. However, “after the “dust is cleared” we will reach  a higher understanding  how to cope with difficulties and  challenges, elevate ourselves and lead more meaningful lives.

To be continued…

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