15 December 2016

Pain Free in Exile – Parshas Vayishlach

By Roy S. Neuberger

My personal physician has a good sense of humor. The first time I met him, he told me, “If you wake up one morning and you don’t have a new pain, dial 911!” I thought this was just a good line, until I realized its wisdom. Over the years, I have frequently awakened with new pains, often in limbs I didn’t know existed. I realize that one can actually bless Hashem for all these pains, because they mean that you are alive!

A famous surgeon once told me, “Pain is a gift. Cancer comes without pain.”

At the leviah of Rabbi Moshe Dov Stein zt”l, the late revered posaik of Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, a son recounted a recent conversation with his father:

“Tatty, how are you feeling today?”

“Worse, baruch Hashem.”

Do you hear this! This from a man whose days were numbered, and he knew it! “Worse, Baruch Hashem!” These words never left me.

This week’s Parsha describes Yaakov Avinu’s epic struggle: “Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the socket of his hip, so Yaakov’s hip socket was dislocated as he wrestled with him…. The sun rose for him as he passed Penuel and he was limping on his hip. Therefore the Children of Israel are not to eat the displaced sinew on the hip socket to this day, because he struck Yaakov’s hip socket on the displaced sinew.” (Beraishis 32:25-33)

I have suffered over the years from sciatica. I know what it means to be “limping on one’s hip.” Sometimes, when in pain, I think about Yaakov Avinu and I am comforted.

It is vital to know that suffering has a purpose. It is vital to know that everything – everything! – in life is l’tova. A great rabbi told me, discussing the tribulations of the Avos and Imahos, that often it seems there is simply no way out of tzouris. Sometimes problems seem so overwhelming that you feel as if  “this mountain can never be climbed.” Then, you daven and do your hishtadlus, and time passes. Somehow you go onward. Years later, you look back, and you see that Hashem was holding your hand the entire time. You may even see why it was beneficial that you suffered, and you see before your eyes a whole world of goodness which Hashem arranged for you, and somehow you understand that you couldn’t have arrived there without the tzouris.

Several years ago I had surgery. I suffered afterwards. I was weak and dispirited. I felt I will never be myself again. Then, suddenly, I had a dream. I was in the Bais Hamikdosh! The kohanim were squeezing fruits in a press with a long wooden handle. The droplets and beautiful aroma filled the air. The kohanim kept repeating, “Pri Etz Hadar…. Pri Etz Hadar … Fruit of the Beautiful Tree ….” 

Our daughter said to look for a mekor for this dream, and I found that Chazal tell us it is good to “see an esrog in a dream … for it is written, [with reference to the esrog], ‘You shall take for yourselves] pri etz hadar … the fruit of a beautiful tree…..’” (Berachos 57a) These were the exact words the kohanim were saying in the dream!

I felt as if I had been transported inside the Gemora! Somehow, I knew that I could never have entered without the tzouris. I needed the tzouris to arrive at this holy destination.

In our world, we sometimes wish we could be pain free. This attitude we learn from the surrounding culture. Recently, in a doctor’s office, I saw a magazine called “Pain Free.” This is the fantasy of the surrounding culture, but we know that we will not be pain free until we arrive at the Geulah Shelemah.

Next week we read the words, “Vayeishev Yaakov … Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojournings …. (Beraishis 37:1), on which Rashi comments, “Yaakov wished finally to settle down tranquilly…. But Hashem says, ‘Are the righteous not satisfied with what awaits them in the World to Come that they expect to live at ease in this world?”

My friends, if we expect to live pain free in Golus, then that means we want to be satisfied with Golus, and we will cease to yearn with all our hearts for the Geulah! The surrounding nations are trying to make a Gan Eden out of the Golus they have created. They think, “only a little more technology and this will be the Garden of Eden.” In reality, their empty, amoral culture is lurching at every moment closer to self-destruction.

“Until the time of Yaakov, there was no sickness. [Yaakov] beseeched [Hashem and from then on] sickness came into being.” (Sanhedrin 107b; Bava Metzia 87a) In Gan Eden, there was no death, so one did not need to prepare for it. But, in our world, death has come because our ancient parents rebelled against their Creator and we have continued the rebellion.

We will overcome pain only when we return in teshuva to the Ribono shel Olam, and not a moment sooner. “The angel of evil has no power except at night, and Yaakov’s power is in the daytime. Therefore the [angel] said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn has broken, and I am now in your power.” (Zohar 1:170b)

On that day, “Hashem … will eliminate death forever and … erase all tears from all faces. He will remove the shame of His nation from upon the entire earth, for Hashem has spoken!” (Yeshiah 25:6ff) May we all soon witness the Great Dawn breaking on the eastern horizon!

* * * *
Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.

© Copyright 2016 by Roy S. Neuberger

* edited by Mr Neuberger

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article: Pain free in Exile.

Helped me, it did.

Shabbat Shalom.