Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Iyar 5766 - May 3, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Necessity of Suffering: Perfecting an Individual Jew's Soul and Bringing Tikkun Ho'Olom

by HaRav Yechezkel Taub

Part II

In the first part, HaRav Taub explained that yissurim are a kindness from Hashem, 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 Gehennom. Yissurim thus have no connection to middas Hadin. They are solely and purely from middas Horachamim. Yissurim also allow us to draw truly close to Hashem in Olom Hazeh by lessening our physical barrier to coming close to Hashem. Yissurim are also a powerful educational tool in the hands of the Creator, Who gives us yissurim that are measure for measure, so that we'll know what we have to rectify, and also how to do so.


In light of this, the question must be asked: If yissurim are so beneficial, why is it permitted for us to pray that we should never have them? On the contrary, we ought to pray from the depths of our hearts that we should merit to have yissurim!

The answer to this question comes from examining an even stronger question about the prayer we recite every day: "Do not bring us into . . . the power of nisoyon, challenge."

A challenge is not meant to test our spiritual level. Hashem knows exactly where we are holding. The whole reason for the challenge is to enable us to elevate our spiritual level. Whenever we pass a test we rise to a higher spiritual level, which is the gain achieved by the fact we stood strong in face of the challenge. [Therefore, it is axiomatic that a person will never receive a challenge he cannot meet.] It seems as though a prayer that we shouldn't be challenged is basically a request that we should remain spiritual dwarfs in our avodas Hashem, G-d forbid. How is it permitted to make such a request?

The answer is that certainly the purpose of the challenge is to enable us to grow in avodas Hashem. But if we're not successful in passing the test, we lose horribly. We would be lacking the spiritual growth and, more importantly, we would have experienced a spiritual downfall as a result of failing the test. Therefore, before we're tested we have the right to ask not to be tested at all, lest we fail the test.

The same thing applies to yissurim. They have enormous benefit, as we learned. But this all depends on accepting them in the right way — in love and with appreciation for their great value. [This is explained at length in Sha'arei Teshuvoh, Sha'ar Sheini, 2-5, from haderech horishon until dibbur hamaschil umei'inyan].

Accepting yissurim in joy is a greater level, as Chazal say: "Those who are humiliated but don't humiliate in return, who hear their disgrace and don't answer back, who accept yissurim in love and joy: about them the verse states: `And those who love Him will be like the rising of the sun in all its power'" (Shabbos 88b).

This joy originates in the joy of receiving such precious and beneficial yissurim, and in the joy of realizing Hashem's love for the one who receives yissurim, because he realizes that Hashem's love for him is the precise reason why he receives the yissurim. As a result, the person receiving yissurim increases his love for Hashem. This means that someone who is able to accept yissurim with joy will come to love Hashem as well.

But out of fear that we won't accept the yissurim at least with love, and therefore as a result we may lose out horribly, it's permitted to request that they should never come. If they do come though, we must strive to accept them with joy, or at least with love.

Creation was designed in such a way that the created beings would bring the world to its ultimate purpose, which is "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty" (Oleinu prayer). The intermediate purpose, and the means by which creation will come to its ultimate purpose is kabbolas HaTorah, the acceptance of the Torah by the Jewish people. In this aspect, only the Jewish people remain in the original purpose of the "created beings." Only they have the power to bring "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty."

The purpose of each individual Jew is to fulfill his part in "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty." [The purpose we spoke about earlier, the perfection of the neshomoh to enjoy the radiance of Hashem's Presence in Olom Habo, and this purpose — fulfilling his part in "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty" are not two separate things. Rather they are "two that are as one." This is because the greater a Jew's portion in perfecting the universe, the more he is perfecting his neshomoh for the pleasure of Olom Habo. The same applies in reverse: the more he perfects his neshomoh, the more he increases his portion in perfecting the universe.]

The perfection of the universe is accomplished through the avodas Hashem of every created being, from the time of Avrohom Ovinu until our day, because through avodas Hashem we are actually accepting upon ourselves the Almighty's sovereignty. By the power of our acceptance we bring all of creation, including the non-Jews, to accept upon themselves the Almighty's sovereignty as well. This is the plain meaning of "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty."

There are two calculations operating in the world: A) The calculation of the klal, congregation, which pertains to how many merits the Jewish people have as an entire entity starting from Avrohom Ovinu until our day, to bring "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty." [The calculation of the merits of the klal is based on adding up the merits of each individual Jew throughout the generations.]

B) The second is the calculation of how much an individual has been successful in perfecting his neshomoh for the sake of bliss in Olom Habo.

Sin interferes with the attainment of "perfecting the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty," just as it interferes with the individual goal of perfecting the neshomoh. This is because "perfecting the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty" means that the entire world must recognize "there is none other than He." Sin, which is disobedience to the Creator, is a complete contradiction to the realization that "there is none other than He."

The individual has as an option a kindness from Hashem called Gehennom, which purifies him of sin. The klal has no connection to the individual's Gehennom, because the perfection of creation has to occur in Olom Hazeh.

When an individual leaves behind a sin that wasn't rectified by teshuvoh or yissurim, it weighs down the entire Klal Yisroel and interferes with "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty," and another Jew must rectify the effect of the sin. This is the reason for the "birth pangs" of the Moshiach, which are the yissurim that Klal Yisroel must endure in order to lower the burden of sins weighing down on the klal.

The arrival of the Moshiach is similar to a woman giving birth. The closer the moment of birth, the more intense are the pains of childbirth. So too with Klal Yisroel, the closer the imminent redemption, the more severe are the yissurim. This is because it's necessary to take off the burden of sins from the entire Klal Yisroel, to bring "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty."

According to this principle, it could be for example that the Jewish people suffered during the Holocaust because of the sins of Jews who lived two thousand years ago.

But this raises the question: how is that fair? Why should Jews of the Holocaust have to suffer for sins they didn't commit?

The answer is that there is no greater merit for the individual Jew to perfect his neshomoh than taking part in the perfection of the entire universe, bringing it closer to the coming of the Moshiach. The great merit given to the Jews of the Holocaust was that by means of their horrific suffering a large burden of sin was taken off Klal Yisroel, bringing creation one step closer to "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty."

[Besides this, there is as well the great reward of the individual who grew because of the yissurim by standing up to the challenge in joy, or at least accepting them with love, in a way that could never have been achieved in normal times. A Holocaust survivor, who had a pure hashkofoh, told me: "I wish I could have one-hundredth of the growth I had during the Holocaust, but I'm far from it."

Once, he wanted to give his last bite of bread to another prisoner whom he saw was close to dying of starvation, although he knew that the next day he could very well be in the same situation as the other prisoner because he gave up his food today. This he was willing to do. But his "test" lay in the fact that his friend was in the next barracks. The Nazis, yemach shemom, were guarding the concentration camp grounds from towers equipped with powerful search lights, and if a prisoner attempted to cross from one barracks to another he would be shot on the spot. Without any realistic chances, he crossed and reached the next barracks and gave his last piece of bread to save the life of his fellow prisoner. Miraculously, he managed to literally dodge the bullets and return alive and in one piece to his barracks.]

There is no greater level of kiddush Hashem than that of the Holocaust victims, who were killed after terrible suffering and reached a great personal level as a result of this kiddush Hashem. A Holocaust survivor, known for his great spirit, wrote in his book: "I was not saved from the Holocaust because I had so many merits, but because I didn't have enough merit to die in a kiddush Hashem."

We can't ask why someone "merits" to die in a kiddush Hashem while someone else doesn't, because only Hashem knows the answer to such a question. As a wise man once said: "If I knew Him, I'd be Him." [Meaning, that to completely understand the ways of Hashem we'd have to be Hashem.]

In the Covenant between the Parts, which in essence was the covenant G-d made with Avrohom that his descendants would have the central role in history, Avrohom was told that only by removing the burden of sin could Bnei Yisroel come to kabbolas HaTorah. (It's clear that sin interferes with kabbolas HaTorah, because the essence of Torah is fulfilling the will of the Creator at all times.) Hashem told Avrom this would be accomplished by the Egyptian exile: "And He said to Avrom, `You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years' " (Bereishis 15:13).

The entire creation would be perfected in the Almighty's sovereignty by fulfillment of the posuk: "Now the sun was ready to set, and a deep sleep fell upon Avrom, and behold, a fright, a great darkness was falling upon him" (Ibid. 15:12). Rashi explains, based on midroshim: "`And behold, a fright, etc.' — An allusion to the troubles and darkness of the exiles."

Avrohom Ovinu saw in his prophetic vision the terrible suffering the Jewish people would have to undergo to bring creation to perfection, and felt "a fright, and a great darkness was falling upon him" [this would seem to indicate that he saw the horrific suffering of the Holocaust, one of the most severe of the birth pangs of Moshiach, along with everything else in our long exile].

The Jewish people will have to endure suffering (if they sin) because they are the Chosen People, which means the nation that will bring "the perfection of the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty," and they'll have to be cleansed from sin as a entire nation, especially before the imminent Redemption.

One of the wonders of history, the Yavetz wrote, is that despite the fact that the Jewish people were persecuted throughout the course of history they are alive and strong. Great and mighty powers, such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans came and ruled the world, and today they're all but nonexistent. But the Jews are alive and strong.

We see in our day and age the miracle of the Torah community's reestablishment after the Holocaust, when nearly everyone thought they'd seen the last of yeshivos and Chassidic Jews. Nearly all the gedolim were wiped out in the Holocaust, and the world thought Torah would never blossom in the Jewish people as it did before. In Hashem's great kindness though, we've seen the miracle of the blossoming of Torah in our generation.

It's our hope that the Redeemer of Yisroel will consider the Holocaust and the yissurim we've experienced since then as the end of the birth pangs of the Moshiach, and we'll immediately "perfect the universe in the Almighty's sovereignty."

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.