SUFFERING

     Nobody can justify human suffering; we cannot explain it with reason.  We know that suffering exists, in various forms: death, sickness, malnutrition, oppression, persecution.  We lack the ability to look through and beyond these agonies and see what good may come of them.  Although we believe, or want to believe, that in the large scheme of things, the good outcome will ultimately become evident, it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, for us to think about the long range outcome in a time frame beyond our generation.  Our sages teach that this world is only a corridor leading to the world to come, the world of eternity, and that by suffering in this world we purify our souls before entering the main hall.  This is one way to explain what no human being can really comprehend.
     I would like to suggest that human suffering is a necessary source of motivation for progress.  Suffering creates the desire to seek solutions and changes.  Suffering and complacency cannot coexist.
     In the days of our ancestors the inability to conceive and give birth was a major source of grief and anguish.  Among his brothers, the children of Terah, Abraham was the only one who did not have a child (Genesis
11:26-30).  One can only imagine the pressure on him and his wife. So he left Ur, the homeland of his family, and moved away.  Then, when he was 75 and his wife Sarah was 65 and still barren, he turned to G-d.  In time of deep and desperate agony he found spirituality.  And G-d instructed this aging couple: "Go from your country… to the land that I will show you.  And I will make you into a great nation…" (Genesis 12:1-2).  So, with the Divine promise to make him into a great nation, to solve his most painful problem, he moved again, this time to the Land of Canaan.
     The misery of being childless had connected Abraham, the Father of Monotheism, with G-d.  Later, it was up to Isaac, the only child of Sarah and Abraham, to keep up the faith and sustain the belief in one G-d.  Would he?  Isaac got his share of pain and agony, which turned him to G-d: "And Isaac pleaded to G-d for his wife, because she was barren. And G-d answered his plea, and his wife Rebecca became pregnant" (Genesis 25:21) and, after 20 years of marriage, gave birth to the twins Esau and Jacob.
     Was it just a coincidence that Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, also had problems conceiving?
     Throughout history, big events were led by persecuted and suffering people who sought changes.  Therefore, in the large scheme of things, suffering has its purpose.  But this does not answer the question of the suffering individual: why me?  A question that no human being is qualified to answer.

--Judah Ari-Gur

 

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