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Should We Say Thanks for Suffering?

Monday, 31 January, 2022 - 6:26 pm

 

Question of the Week

If you believe everything happens for a good reason, should you be thankful for any suffering or trauma you experience?

Answer

The Talmud has an interesting angle on that. 

The Mishna (Brachot 54a) teaches:

Just as we bless G-d for good things, so should we bless Him for bad things.

This seems to say that we should make no differentiation between good news and bad. Whether we just won the lottery or our house burnt down, we should bless G-d in exactly the same way. 

But the Gemara elaborates:

When we hear good news we say, "Blessed are You G-d, King of the Universe, Who is good and does good." 
When we hear bad news we say, "Blessed are You G-d, King of the Universe, Who is the Judge of truth." 

Those two blessings are clearly different. When we win the lottery, we praise G-d for His goodness. Not only is He good, but He does good that we can experience as good. However, when our house burns down, we humbly acknowledge that G-d is the one who decides our fate.

So, the Gemara asks, what does the Mishna mean by "just as", implying some parity between good and bad tidings? 

Answers the Gemara:

We should accept both good and bad news with joy.

Joy? I should be as happy when my house burns down as if I won the lottery?

The great Talmudic commentator, Rashi, explains what the Gemara means by joy:

When you bless G-d for a painful experience, do it with a full heart.

This is teaching us something very profound.

When bad things happen to us, we feel pain and we cry. We know it is bad. Even the Mishna called it bad. And yet, we bless G-d. And we say the blessing with joy. 

Joy does not always mean smiling and dancing. Joy means being fully engaged in the moment, no matter what is going on. We can feel sad, but we must never disengage, switch off, despair or become bitter. Living my life as it is, with a full heart and hopeful soul, this is joy.

Sometimes G-d sends me moments of light. I love that, and am thankful for it. Sometimes G-d sends me moments of darkness. I may not like that, but I acknowledge that the hard times come from Him, just as the good times do. Ultimately, I thank G-d even for the dark times, because they are an inexorable part of my story. 

In the midst of pain, I can look up to G-d with a full heart and say, "I am here in this moment, a difficult and painful one. You have put me here. Which means I am in the right place. This is my life, and I am living it. And I know that it will be good. Thank you."

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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