Facing the Challenge
By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
“Yaakov (Jacob) settled in the land of his father’s sojourns, in the land
of Canaan.” (Beraishis/ Genesis 37:1) As the term “settled” is inconsistent
with the Torah’s usual verbiage, Rashi notes, “Yaakov sought to dwell in
tranquility, but then the ordeal of Yosef (Joseph) was thrust upon him.
The righteous seek to dwell in tranquility: the Holy One Blessed is He
said, ‘Do the righteous not consider that which is prepared for them in
the World to Come to be enough for them that they seek to dwell in
tranquility in this world as well?’” G-d decided that despite Yaakov’s
righteousness he should suffer the twenty-two year ordeal of believing
Yosef was dead. This suffering was not a punishment for misdeeds; why did
G-d want to afflict Yaakov in such a way?
The Talmud (Brachos 5a) teaches: If a person suffers, he should check his
deeds to find what he may be doing wrong. If he finds nothing wrong he
should assume he wasted Torah study time (i.e. perhaps he is not
proactively doing the right things he should). If he finds that he is
wasting no such time then his afflictions are afflictions of Divine love.
In what way is causing people to suffer an expression of G-d’s love?
Malbim (1) explains that through one’s trials he becomes an improved
person. It is only by facing life’s challenges that he can actualize his
potential. Furthermore, by overcoming this test he can serve as a role
model and is in a better position to help and guide others in their time
of need. While we can never completely understand why G-d runs the world
the way He does, we can gain some invaluable insights. Our Sages teach us
that this world is comparable to a corridor leading to the next world
(Avos 4:21). Our life’s objective is to realize our potential in this
world to achieve the true spiritual rewards for our good deeds in the
world to come. We think we would love to be able to do so without
suffering, but in truth, we understand that an extra push is often needed
to encourage our growth and to help others do the same.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) acronym for (Rabbi) Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel; 1809-1879; Rabbi
in Germany, Romania and Russia, he was one of the preeminent modern Bible
commentators, often demonstrating how the Oral Tradition is implicit in the
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
Kol HaKollel is a publication of The Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish Studies · 5007 West Keefe Avenue · Milwaukee, Wisconsin · 414-447-7999