This essay is a continuation of Rabbi Resnick’s first essay on “Appreciating the Benefits of Difficulties & Challenges.”
Yissurim weaken our attachment to physicality, to purify us in preparation for Olam Haba (the World to Come).
The Gemara Brachot (5a) discussed a sequence of three ways to understand and relate to Yissurim:
First, one should examine his deeds; Second, he should attribute them to bitul Torah (wasting time from learning Torah); and if neither of these make sense as the cause of these yissurim, then one should view them as yissurim shel ahavah (difficulties from love). Rashi explained [regarding yissurim shel ahavah] that — “G-d afflicts those whom He loves, even if they have not committed any chet, in order to give them greater benefit in Olam Haba than their merits would otherwise have justified.”
The Maharal (Netiv HaYissurin — aleph) explained this Gemara:
When a person transgresses, and [necessarily becomes] deficient [i.e., the first possibility that the Gemara spoke about], it is appropriate that yissurim should come upon him.
If one is lax with learning Torah [i.e., the second possibility], then even though he isn’t inherently lacking, he is still considered deficient because he is lacking the perfection which it was possible for him to have gotten from the Torah, and [therefore] yissurim will come upon him.
[The final possibility of the Gemara] is to assume that they are yissurim shel ahavah. The explanation is — When a person is a tzadik, and fitting for the most exalted level, but in terms of his body and connection to the physical, there is an aspect that is not fit for that level, G-d brings yissurim upon him in order to cleanse the nefesh (soul) until he becomes purified. Since G-d loved him and wanted to bring this person closer to be able to cling to Him, and he was the one preventing and blocking this because he was not fit for this close connection, they were, therefore, called yissurim shel ahavah — it was because of G-d’s love that He brought them upon this person. Therefore, they should [also] be accepted from love, otherwise there will be no connection (d’veikut) in them.
The Maharal then quoted the continuation of this Gemara:
“When Rebbe Yochanan was ill, Rebbe Chanina went to him and asked him — ‘Chavivin alecha yissurin (Are these yissurim precious to you)?’ and he answered him — ‘Neither them nor their benefit!’ which sounds like he felt that these yissurin were [really] not valuable!”
The Maharal explained:
This is not a difficulty (kashe), since a tzadik may certainly worry that he will not be able to stand up to the yissurim, and will [end up] doing what Iyov did [i.e., cursing and blaspheming G-d]… And it is very clear that they will only be chavivim when one can bear them, since they will then purify the soul, until they bring the person to cling to G-d.
The Maharal (Netiv Hayissurin — gimmel) explained further:
Yissurim are more precious than all other levels, since they cleanse, purify, and elevate the soul, until it becomes removed from the physical, and the one with yissurim becomes separate from the material until he becomes a ben Olam Haba (one fit for the World to Come).
When yissurim come upon Yisrael, they are humbled and they cry out to G-d. As long as the yissurim continue to come on them, their [physical] deficiency that distances them from G-d is removed until they become close to G-d. When the physical body is [minimized], they cling to G-d, and therefore they call out to G-d in their time of distress. And as long as yissurim continue to come on them, they acquire more of a connection (d’veikut) to G-d.
To continue reading the entire essay click here.
Rabbi Asher Resnick serves as a senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah’s Executive Learning Center, and is a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues. Olami & NLEResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com.