Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - Bitter-Tasting Medicine

A Simple Jew asks:

The Me'or Einayim taught that if a person can truthfully view the suffering he is undergoing as being ultimately for his own good, he will immediately experience relief from his suffering.

We may fully understand that taking a bitter-tasting medicine can help us feel better in the long run, yet this knowledge still doesn't change the fact that the medicine does not taste sweet to us. How are we, on our lowly level, supposed to honestly regard the suffering and difficulties we experience in a positive light and experience them as such?

Dixie Yid answers:

First, I would like to say that I think that I would read the Meor Einayim differently. Unless you are referring to a different paragraph than I think you are, the piece that you're referring to in Parshas Vayeitze, D"H "v'zeh she'amru razal," seems to be saying a somewhat different point. I think he is saying that when a person is truthfully able to see how Hashem is there and present, in a metzumtzam form, according to the person's ability to comprehend, in any major or minor suffering that he experiences, he will see the Rachamim, the love, mercy and desire by Hashem to benefit him. When he sees the suffering as mercy and rachamim, that Hashem is doing this only because He wants the best for him, then it will be considered as such above. I don't read this as saying that the suffering (which is really) mercy will be transformed into a non-suffering (which is still) mercy. But that it will be considered "mercy" in the upper world, thus affording him as much spiritual benefit from the suffering as he was already able to see.

But whichever way one should read the Meor Einayim, your main question remains. How can we experience suffering as the mercy that we know it must be in the long term? In many ways, this is related to the question I have been writing about earlier this week here and here. So I think it bears pointing out that there are two different situations. One is how one should look at others' suffering and the other is how a person should view his own suffering. In my recent posts, I was focusing more on how one views others' suffering. Moshe, Sorah Imeinu and Rav Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev didn't let their Emunah that people's suffering is ultimately for the good stop them from trying to do whatever they could to stop that suffering. They did not accept the Jewish people's suffering, but rather "fought" G-d to get Him to relieve it.

I think that what you are really asking about is how one can view his own suffering. The only practical way that I know of to achieve what you are talking about, a conscious feeling that the bad things that happen to one's self are actually good, is through an amalgamation of Rebbe Nachman and Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. One of the major points in these paths, different as they are, is the constant refocusing that one engages in when he's in constant dialouge with the Master of the World. If, before any major suffering comes into one's life, he can speak to Hashem throughout the days, connecting each prat of life to Hashgacha Pratis and Hashem's love for him in His ultimate plan, then the consciousness of Hashem's plan will become a part of his life.

Once that dialogue is already ongoing, and a person is already in that mode of talking to Hashem and seeing Hashem's hashgacha and beneficience in every prat u'prat, every detail of his life, then the transition to applying that attitude to suffering, when it comes, will be natural and will not seem as impossible as it does to us now. It is by starting off when things are easy, and seeing Hashem's goodness, kindness and mercy now, that we will put ourselves into a position to be ready to naturally have that attitude when the hard times come.

It's never easy to see suffering as kindness, and in the case of others' suffering, it perhaps never should be viewed that way. But when it comes to our own suffering, "a boy scout always comes prepared," and "the best defense is a good offense." By being prepared and going on the Emunah offense before the tough times begin, we'll be prepared when they do, IY"H.


At January 21, 2009 at 12:17:00 PM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great question and great answer.

At January 21, 2009 at 6:32:00 PM EST, Blogger Anarchist Chossid said...

Nice post.

There is an important point. Lehatchila, we should prevent suffering. Both ours and other people’s. And pray for Hashem’s kindness to be revealed. But bedieved, we should accept that suffering is chesed from a higher (hidden) level.

At January 21, 2009 at 7:36:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To A Simple Jew here:
I think it bears pointing out that there are two different situations. One is how one should look at others' suffering and the other is how a person should view his own suffering.

You picked up a very fundamental subject. I was also already for a while researching it, and still many issues here remain unclear.

First of all, if one says that any suffering is for the good, why should be there any essential difference between one's suffering any someone else's?

Of course, being concerned about someone's else suffering and wishing to relive it is part of ahavas Yisroel and rachmonus, but still where is there a fundamental difference? If suffering is for the good (and it is hidden rachamim) it is always for the good. Or it is not?

Another important point, how should one approach even personal suffering (either physical, or emotional - agmus nefesh and etc.)?

I.e. if this is a supernal "medicine", may be one should not complain, since the Eibershter is curing him with the medicine (though bitter), and anything the Eibershter gives is for the good. And if one asks to take away the medicine, one is loosing the tikun and actually will have to pay it off anyway (may be by worse means chas vesholoym). Or on the other hand, one can be blamed for not davening to relieve the suffering, since one should daven for any need (tfilo deOyrayso), as it says that Bashefer want our tfiloys?

This sounds very contradictory. Do you know what's the right answer to that?

Regarding the suffering also, I've heard from Reb Luzer Kenig, that one should feel (literally) taanug Oylom haBo in it, for example in bizyoynoys. (At that point he didn't elaborate on the subject too much).

This is pretty profound on one hand (needs some internalization too, and practically pretty hard), but on the other hand this might sound somewhat masochistic even. Does it mean one should welcome and seek suffering? Isn't it an abnormal state of the mind to some degree? How can it be performed in the right way?

So far I didn't see clear answers to all that.

At January 21, 2009 at 11:06:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I just wanted to add that in least one teaching, Rebbe Nachman seems to say that with G-dly awareness we won't experience pain and suffering at all.

In Likutei Moharan I, 250 (translation from Essential Rebbe Nachman), he says, "Know that the only reason we experience pain and suffering is because of lack of da'at, G-dly knowledge and awareness. One who possesses this knows that everything is sent by G-d and therefore he feels no pain or suffering."

Maybe how we can understand the Me'or Einayim's teaching is that if we try to strengthen our faith and knowledge that everything is for the best, we'll always get a least a little relief from our pain, but if we finally succeed in reaching a much higher level of da'at, we won't feel any pain and suffering at all.

At January 22, 2009 at 8:41:00 AM EST, Blogger Anarchist Chossid said...

A question is asked: if Jews were destined by Hashem to enter exile — and, indeed, the exile was a necessary step before receiving Torah — why were Egyptians blamed and punished for enslaving them? The answer is: what Jews were destined is Eibeshter’s business — not Egyptians’.

So, if someone punches you in the nose, it means you deserved to be punched in the nose. It was by hashgacha protis, and an opportunity was created for someone to step in and punch you in the nose (which the puncher did). This is from your point of view.

From the puncher’s point of view, there was a choice there for him — to punch in the nose or not. He had a bechira to refuse (in which case somebody else would take up this opportunity, or it would be realized in some other way).

But I don’t think this is a difference between your suffering and others’ suffering. If you or others are suffering and you can do something about it, you should do it. But if there is nothing you can do about it (or if it already happened), then you should accept it as a higher level of zchus.

Regarding why we daven to alleviate suffering if it’s so good — we daven that the concealed becomes revealed. Aye, we said (starting with “והנה עצה היעוצה”) that concealed was in a form of suffering to begin with because it was too high for us to take — so we daven that we should be on a higher level and take it. (This is in general, the only way that davening can make sense.)

At January 25, 2009 at 2:41:00 AM EST, Blogger rickismom said...

Rabbi Kirzner, z"l says in one of his tapes on suffering, that the person having a nissiyon enters into a relationship with G-d (at least he CAN) , that outsiders do not share. This leads to outsiders not being able to fathom how the person stays sane and manages (or doesn't manage....)

I always say: If G-d throws you in the deep end of the pool, do you have a choice? NO! So you swim!


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