Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When Bad Things Happen....

Everything Hashem does is for the good, right?

When we suffer, the pain is for our benefit. We don't necessarily see it or understand it, but we believe it to be so. Pain strengthens us. It's a good thing. So we are told.

We are told that eventually we will come to realize that, even though the pain itself was so difficult to endure, it will have had a positive outcome. We will comprehend that the tears and pain were there for our benefit.


How can something so negative be for our benefit?

When we are in pain or going through a difficulty, though it is extremely horrible, if we can survive that crisis, we often find deep within ourselves a source of strength that we never knew existed. Challenges, unfortunately, strengthen us to become stronger, and often, wiser.

How true.

The person I was before enduring my life's challenges is someone that the me of today would hardly recognize.

She was a sincerely good person, kept up with lots of friends, and followed all the rules with an innocence that I almost envy.

The me of today is working towards pushing forward in my spiritual growth, and hopes to someday reach the place I once was. But I know that when it happens, it will be on a very different level. Growth that comes through struggle is very different than spirituality that is just there, just because it always was.

And I do struggle. I'm not proud of some of the things I do or don't do...but I know that those things do not define who I am.

The me of today does not have as many friends. Some disappeared because they couldn't relate to suffering, and didn't know how to respond. And some....I drifted away from. Suddenly, my life was so different from perspective was so different...we just didn't have anything in common anymore.

But the me of today enjoys my own company. I can go places alone, without feeling awkward...without feeling that I need someone at my side. I have a confidence...and a maturity...I never had before.

And I'm strong. I know that life comes with challenges..with pain....with suffering...and I can face them head on, and get through it even stronger than I was before.

I am more complete. More at peace with who I am.

I like the me of today.

Despite....or maybe because of...the fact that I'm so imperfect.

A man once came to the Maggid of Mezeritch with a question.

"The Talmud tells us," asked the man, "that 'A person is supposed to bless G-d for the bad just as he blesses Him for the good.' How is this humanly possible? Had our sages said that one must accept without complaint or bitterness whatever is ordained from Heaven -- this I can understand. I can even accept that, ultimately, everything is for the good. But how can a person be as grateful for his troubles as he is for his joys?"

The Maggid replied: "To find an answer to your question, you must go see my disciple, Reb Zusha of Anipoli. Only he can help you in this matter."

Reb Zusha received his guest warmly. The visitor decided to observe Reb Zusha's conduct before posing his question. Before long, he concluded that his host truly exemplified the Talmudic dictum which so puzzled him. He couldn't think of anyone who suffered more hardship in his life than did Reb Zusha: a frightful pauper, there was never enough to eat in Reb Zusha's home, and his family was beset with all sorts of afflictions and illnesses. Yet Reb Zusha was always good-humored and cheerful, and constantly expressing his gratitude to the Almighty for all His kindness.

But what was is his secret? How does he do it? The visitor finally decided to pose his question.

"What is your question?" asked Reb Zusha.

The visitor repeated what he had asked of the Maggid. "You raise a good point," said Reb Zusha, after thinking the matter through. "But why did our Rebbe send you to me? How would I know? He should have sent you to someone who has experienced suffering..."

I don't even attempt to reach that level. But I have reached a place where I can be thankful for the suffering.

If I had the choice, would I go through this again....knowing what I know today? Knowing how much I would grow and mature? Knowing that it would make me a stronger person and a better parent? Knowing that I would become kinder and more sensitive to other people's needs? Knowing that, at the end of it all, I'd be more secure in who I who I became?

No....probably not. But I wasn't given the choice.

And I'm grateful.


  1. I think that what you are contemplating is touching on what is probably one of the most fundamental struggles we all have in our beliefs. It's the difficulty in trying to understand divine logic (which obviously, by definition we can't do). That was probably the source of many issues with emunah during the holocaust etc. "How can god, who is all about love and justice, do something so seemingly wrong?" And the ones who try to give reasons (talking in shul, etc.) make themselves look like insensitive idiots. I guess, part of believing is carrying such burdens of doubt, and simply accepting our inability to understand. As Confucious says.... "Knowing what he knows, and knowing what he doesn't know, are the characteristics of one who knows"

    Sometimes the questions are so blatant, it's incredible how people robotically fall in line. Listen to the news reports out of Haiti. How many anecdotal stories of miraculous rescue, along with the obligatory flowery talk how it's clear that god was present with the person, watching over them, hence the miraculous life saving rescue. Huh? Wasn't He the One who shook that Port Au Potty city and threw all that concrete on nine million people

  2. Beautiful post...

    I can relate so much to what you wrote... And the strange thing is...I think I would do it all again if I knew this is where I would come out....

    It's wonderful when we can look back at our suffering and see how we have grown. What a bracha...

  3. wow, you put it all so well.

    Very true about becoming a different person because of struggles, and how it feels better to grow from struggles than to be born with the spirituality.

  4. "The me of today does not have as many friends. Some disappeared because they couldn't relate to suffering, and didn't know how to respond. And some....I drifted away from. Suddenly, my life was so different from perspective was so different...we just didn't have anything in common anymore."

    Its funny how we think that our suffering is so special that others can't relate to it. Or how a different perspective changes people fundamentally. I think that rather than them not being able to relate, it may be that they don't know how to relate to people or suffering different than others. A sympathetic and caring person can help and support people who suffer even atrocities that they can't imagine.

    Great post though, gave me what to think about

  5. Bernie...

    Good point.
    I don't even try to understand why I needed to go through this difficulty. I was focusing more on the outcome. But, I like what you said... " part of believing is carrying such burdens of doubt, and simply accepting our inability to understand".

    Corner Point...

    I can't even imagine living through that time again. So I can't see choosing it. But it's great that you are able to see it the way you the extent that you'd actually be willing to do it all again.
    You're on a higher level than I am.

    Jewish Side...

    Thank you.
    It's the difference between the satisfaction you get when you work for something and the way it feels to have that same thing handed to you.


    I wasn't implying that my suffering is so special. Sure, a caring person can offer support. And people did. But when those people who were once your friends run around to 15 different stores to find the perfect pair of shoes for their 2 year just don't relate anymore.

  6. MW--

    I can't imagine living through that time again, either..... It was hell....

    But I can't imagine the person I would be had I not suffered thru it. The person I see in the mirror is the product of the hell. Had I been asked if I had wanted to go thru it, I probably would have said no--who would choose to live crazy things?... But standing where I'm standing and knowing what I know now, I think I would choose it again...

    Would you choose to be that one running to the 15 stores.....?

    And no, I don't think I'm on a higher level. We're just different people, so we have different levels.
    And remember...we went thru different things... you can't compare...

  7. Corner Point...

    You're right. There's no way I'd want to be the person I was back then. I'm grateful for who I became...for who I am today. But what made me who I am WAS hell, and the thought of choosing that...I don't know. I just don't know...
    Maybe it's because I'm still dealing with some of the fallout. Maybe if life would be a fairy tale after the hell, I'd see it differently.

  8. Isn't it a good thing, then, that we're not given the choice? Because not knowing how it will end up, we would never choose to be tested. And then we would never grow... He knows what's best for us, and so it's a good thing He's the One who chooses for us!!

    And as for the fairy tale..... I don't think I would want to live in a fairy tale...... Where's the life in that....?

  9. Corner Point...

    "Isn't it a good thing, then, that we're not given the choice?"

    Absolutely. Which is why I ended my post saying I'm grateful for that.

    "I don't think I would want to live in a fairy tale...... Where's the life in that....?"

    lol...You're right! Thank you!

  10. I love your ending that you weren't given the choice, and for that you're grateful. I hear that all the way. Can't imagine living through what I did again, but I like who I am, and I am me, because of it...we think choices are such a good thing...they're not (current social psychology theory today actually supports this...but I'm getting off track.)

    Beautiful post.

  11. Thank you! And thank you for digging up this very old post because it made me think about this all over again. I still stand by what I said back then - maybe even more so now. But I am watching someone I love go through a nightmare...and I know this will make her a different person. I know she will grow. But...I'm having a hard time seeing that the nightmare is worth whatever good will come from it.

    But no one was given any choices here. And I'm sure Hashem knows what He's doing...