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Jewish Thinking

Can One Really Overcome the Suffering Imposed by Hashem?

Published on Wednesday November 6th, 2019

Question: A well-known principle sustains that Hashem does not send trials and tribulations that are impossible to overcome. Does this principle also apply to suffering?

Answer: Certainly, this principle applies to both trials and suffering. It is obvious, but it is not always easy to abide by, as we will explain in the following lines.

A man who succumbs to a forbidden pleasure or loses his composure in a fit of anger but later does teshuvah, wakes up as a new man. He can feel divine benevolence and heavenly protection from this pitfall. Then, a while later, his Yetzer Hara catches fire again and he relapses to a greater extent, without knowing why this happened again.

The book "Tsidkat Hatsadik" explains that this is caused by an "accuser" who questions the sincerity of his teshuvah. He must therefore be tried again and eventually fall back again, as an opportunity to reexamine whether his regrets are sincere. If he succeeds in doing away with this fault uncompromisingly and he takes control of his urges, it is likely that the cause of his relapse was an accusation against the value of his teshuvah. However, it may seem to him like a trial experienced under duress.

The same applies to suffering that can sometimes befall a man. As a result, he experiences a plunge in the clarity of his faith, which makes his trials doubly devastating; he has no clue about how to overcome these obstacles. Thus, a man born with a disability, let's say in the use of his leg, who moves with difficulty, seems to experience an insurmountable challenge. But undeniably, his suffering (as explained in the book "Michtav M’Eliyahu") may have been the condition of an agreement, or even a request from the human soul before it came into the world.

The Chafets Chaim indeed explains that certain sinful souls, condemned to reincarnation, fear falling back into faults they committed while they lived a decadent and opulent life, so they ask to be born with a handicap. Their request being granted, these people are thus born with a physical problem and their Tikun is to withstand their pain to the best of their ability.

Our sages teach that Hashem does not bewilder his unknowing creatures and that no one is condemned for suffering.  But it must be known that even if someone is spared punishment for complaining in times of duress and may even be absolved for complaining about his suffering, it is unlikely that he will reach great spiritual heights if he moans the trials sent his way.

In short, although it may seem that sometimes man is tested beyond his capacity, in fact, his trials result from divine "accounting" and are a consequence of absolute justice.

Rav Yaakov Israel LUGASSY

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