Friday, December 11, 2009

Why People Suffer

The Torah tells us that a slave goes free if his master takes out his eye or tooth. Chazal learn from this a kal v’chomer: if one liberates himself from physical slavery through suffering, how much more is one redeemed from the spiritual suffering of the next world through experiencing pain in this one!
Rav Nisim Yagen, zt”l, once shared a true story to illustrate how one should relate to suffering. “A certain talmid chacham has a son who hates to get a bath. Every time he is taken to bathe is literally a battle. He kicks and screams and is always on the lookout for any opportunity to squirm out of his mother’s hands and run away. He must be physically grabbed and forced into the bath and washed with great force. Unfortunately, because the boy continuously squirms, the soap often gets into his eyes and exacerbates his already extreme discomfort.
“Even after the bath he keeps crying as if he had undergone a terrible emotional ordeal—which his antipathy for baths really does precipitate. Once, after a half hour of crying, the young man’s father approached the now happily playing child and said to him, ‘Tell me the truth. Do you love your mother?’
“‘Of course,’ the boy immediately replied.
“‘But she forced you to bathe just now. She pained you and you cried. How can you still love her?’
Rav Yagen explained, “Although the child did not know how to answer, it was clear that he loved his mother still. The reason behind this is clear. The child knows in the depths of his heart that his mother truly loves him and that everything she does to him must be for his own good. He does not comprehend why but he knows that she forced him to bathe only because she loves him.
“This is how one who has a difficult time should feel towards Hashem. We must know so deeply that Hashem loves us that we truly feel that whatever we experience is for our good even when we cannot understand why. It is only one who feels absolutely certain that Hashem loves him who can experience yesurim with love!”

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