Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Sweetness in the Bitterness

Rav Tzaddok HaKohen zt”l explains that maror is called “parperes ha’pas” because it draws one to eat bread, just like any other bitter, spicy, sour, or salty food. This is likewise true of the bitterness that crops up in life. Just as maror arouses an appetite for the bread that is the staff of life, so too does suffering awaken inside a person a yearning to connect with the Wellspring of all spiritual vitality. We see this from the story of the Exodus itself; the more the Egyptians oppressed us, the more did we multiply—increasing our collective life-force—and the more we were aroused to cry out to Hashem in prayer. The power of pain is that it inspires a person to seek true life!

The Chofetz Chayim zt”l once entered the yeshivah, and found two young men learning together—one came from a wealthy and prominent family, and had never lacked for a thing in his life. The other boy was completely destitute, well-versed in the trials and tribulations of a life of poverty.

The Chofetz Chayim approached them. “How many daf did you manage to learn today?” he asked.

They answered in unison, “One page.”

The Chofetz Chayim turned to the wealthy boy. “You have indeed learned a single page today, but your friend here has learned one hundred!”

The young man spluttered, “How could that be, Rebbi?! We studied side-by-side the entire day—never budging an inch from one another!”

The gadol explained. “The Sages taught that a mitzvah fulfilled while suffering is one hundred times as valuable as one that was performed in ease. If so, the one page learned by your friend is worth one hundred daf of yours!”


Spiritual Dan said...

Now Avos D'R'Nosson says that 'one deed accomplished amid pain is greater than two hundred without pain'... you may have quoted this before actually, I forget. Now how do we explain the different ratios - is there any significance to attach there, i.e. 100 vs. 200 vs. 1000.

Micha Golshevsky said...

I think it depends on how much one suffers. "The reward is according to the pain."

Spiritual Dan said...

interesting... according to this view, then the pain-reward chart is logarithmic. i.e. pain of 1, reward 100, pain of 2, reward 200, pain of 3, reward 1,000. and so on.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Thank you for your insightful comment yet again!
I have been thinking about what you wrote. In the halachos of fasting, every hour of fasting over one day equals a day since each additional hour is much harder than the original fast. So one who has fasted 48 hours straight has 25 fasts under his belt. Continuing to fast a third day is worth approximately a full day fast per half hour since the entire third day counts as an additional 47 more fasts, a grand total of 72 fasts. This is because the difficulty is cumulative and the more pain the more the fasts count. To summarize, three straight days of fasting equals 72 fasts. (Don't try this at home, folks! Fasting is prohibited nowadays (besides the obligatory fasts, and those brought in the Shulchan Aruch, like Bahab and Erev Rosh Chodesh.) Excessive fasting as a rule, doesn't lead to greater holiness for people in our physically weak generation. There are many other things one can and should do.
As you know, some difficulties are harder than fasts and are very powerful spiritual cleansers. Perhaps this is why the Talmud says that one who is sick and gets well has been forgiven all his sins. (Even though his sins may have required years of fasting!)
Once again, I am amazed at your ability to ascend above your difficulties and pain.
Ashrecha v'tov lach!