Chazal write (Medrash Rabbah, parsha 65,
os 9): "Yitzchok asked for yissurim
(suffering). He said to G-d: `Ribbon HoOlomim! If a
man dies without yissurim, the Attribute of Justice is
stretched over him. But if You bring upon him
yissurim, the Attribute of Justice won't be stretched
over him [because the yissurim cleanse him of sin
(Yeffeih Toar)].' HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to
him: "By your life, you've asked for a good thing. I'll begin
with you.' `And it came to pass, when Yitzchok had become
old, and his eyes dimmed from seeing . . . ' (Bereishis,
Toldos, perek 27:1)."
Yitzchok Ovinu saw that if a man would come to the World of
Eternity with the great burden of transgressions he had
committed in Olom Hazeh and he would have to cleanse
himself from them in Gehennom, the purification would
be overly difficult for him. Therefore, he asked the Creator
for a means that would relieve the burden of transgressions
from a man while he's still in Olom Hazeh. HaKodosh
Boruch Hu agreed and answered: "You've asked for a good
Gehennom is a kindness from Hashem, Whose Divine Will
is to bestow goodness with an infinite kindness that has no
match in the entire universe, namely, "the pleasure of His
Divine Radiance in Olom Habo." Man was created in
Olom Hazeh so that he could transform his
neshomoh into a utensil capable of accepting this
awesome Divine Goodness. Sin interferes with the
neshomoh's ability to receive this pleasure, and so
Gehennom was necessary to purify the neshomoh
of all its sins, so that it can receive the reward it earned
during its sojourn in Olom Hazeh.
However, despite the fact that Gehennom is a kindness,
it's still a very difficult process. Therefore, the Creator
gave us another wonderful kindness: yissurim. Their
purpose is to cleanse us of our sins in Olom Hazeh.
This is a kindness because the cleansing of the
neshomoh in Olom Hazeh is immeasurably easier
than the purification of the neshomoh in
Chazal and the chachomim of every generation highly
praised yissurim. One of the principles mentioned in
our Holy seforim is that Hashem has two basic ways of
directing Creation: middas Hadin (the Characteristic
of Justice) and middas Horachamim (the Characteristic
of Mercy). Yissurim have no connection to middas
Hadin, they write. They are solely and purely from
The Maggid of Dubno brings a parable to demonstrate the value
of yissurim. Once there was a Poritz, a Polish feudal
landowner, who found himself on the verge of bankruptcy. His
investigation revealed that his estate manager was negligent
in managing his business affairs and furthermore embezzled
any profit he managed to make.
His trustworthy friend advised him to take a talented Jew as
his estate manager. The Poritz objected: "But the law of the
land prohibits appointing a Jew to be an estate manager!"
His friend answered: "No problem. Let the estate manager you
have now keep his title. But in reality give the Jew
responsibility for everything."
The Poritz followed his advice and his business began to
flourish. The estate manager hated the Jew immensely, of
course, but there was nothing he could do since the Jew
enjoyed the Poritz's protection.
One day the Poritz decided to travel overseas, and the estate
manager seized the opportunity for revenge. He pounced on the
Jew and gave him twenty-five cruel lashes with a horsewhip.
The Jew went home crushed and humiliated.
He told his wife: "When the Poritz returns, I'll be able to
complain about my humiliation and injuries. He'll certainly
punish the manager."
The Poritz returned and the Jew went to see him, but he came
home unhappy and disappointed.
"What happened? asked his wife. "Did the Poritz ignore your
"No, on the contrary," he answered. "He fined the manager a
heavy fine. For every blow he gave me, he has to pay me
$10,000 (with linkage to the cost-of-living)! All together
"So what's the matter? Too bad you can't get twenty-five
lashes every day and make a quarter of a million dollars! Why
are you so unhappy?"
"The estate manger has a villa that's worth $500,000. He has
to sell it now to pay me the $250,000. If he would have given
me fifty lashes I'd have the whole villa now!" cried the
When we go to the World of Truth, wrote the Maggid of Dubno,
we'll be tremendously happy about the yissurim we
received, seeing how much they helped us by cleansing us of
our sins. We'll be greatly pained though, that we didn't
have more. [The reason we don't receive enough
yissurim to completely cleanse all our sins is because
we lack the level of accepting them in love, as will be
explained further on, bs'd].
Besides purifying us from sin, yissurim perform
another vital function by allowing us to draw truly close to
Hashem in Olom Hazeh. This is because the physical
side of man prevents him drawing truly close to his Creator.
But when the body is afflicted with yissurim, its
physicality is reduced to some degree, and it no longer
presents the obstacle in becoming close to Hashem in Olom
This is the basis for yissurim mei'ahavoh, out of
love, which are the yissurim of a person who has no
sin. The whole purpose of such yissurim is to enable
the person to achieve true closeness with Hashem by removing
the obstacle of physicality, the "dividing curtain" between
the person and his Creator. Yitzchok Ovinu received this kind
Another benefit from yissurim is that they are a
powerful educational tool in the hands of the Creator, "Who
gave us His Torah and wants us to return in teshuvoh."
This is sometimes immeasurably more important than all the
benefits we've mentioned until now. He afflicts us so we'll
do teshuvoh and improve our ways. The Creator gives us
yissurim that are measure for measure, so that we'll
know what we have to rectify, and also how to do so. We can
be assured that we can know what the purpose of the
yissurim are if we truly seek the reason, because the
entire goal of the Creator is to educate us and to help us
grow and become wise. He wouldn't bring the yissurim
upon us without giving us the possibility to grow from
A person who is wise of heart can reach the level where he
even feels pleasure and enjoyment in the midst of the
yissurim — a pleasure that has no parallel in
Olom Hazeh, and he'll feel as if he's not suffering at
all. "The Creator of the entire world is thinking of me," he
thinks and feels, "and since He's interested in my welfare He
wants the true good for me. In His great love and kindness
for me He is teaching me, by means of these yissurim,
a lesson of incomparable value."
This is reflected in the verse: "For Hashem reproves him whom
He loves, even as a father the son in whom he delights"
These feelings, besides bringing a person closer to Hashem,
also bring him to love Hashem perfectly, according to his
spiritual level and according to the ability he has to
comprehend Hashem's love for man in the act of giving him
yissurim, as we explained.
In addition, we're often blind to the true nature of things;
we're too petty-minded to understand what is actually good
and what is bad, even from a materialistic view alone.
Frequently, we discover that what we thought was bad turned
out to be chasdei Hashem. [See Brochos 60b: "A
man should always be accustomed to say: `Everything that the
Merciful One does is for the best.' "]
Based on what we have seen, the Shulchan Oruch brings:
"A man is obligated to bless for bad tidings in the same
joyous way he blesses on good tidings, with the same
wholehearted acceptance and spirit of desire . . . "
(Orach Chaim, siman 222, seif 3).
[For further understanding, look at the Mishna in
Brochos 54a: "A man is obligated to bless on the bad
in the same way he blesses on the good," and the gemora
(Ibid.) 60b: "Rovo said that [this mishna] was
only necessary to teach that he must accept [the bad] with
joy." See also the Rif on this piece of gemora, and
the Rambam, Hilchos Brochos, perek 10, halochoh
3, the Tur and the rest of the poskim, the
commentaries on Shas, especially Rabbeinu Yonah
on the Rif, dibbur hamaschil "Masnison" (page 44 in
the pages of the Rif), the commentaries of the Tur,
Shulchan Oruch, and the Mishna Berurah seif kotton
4, and the verses that the Mishna and the
gemora bring (Ibid.)].
End of Part I