The Yom Tovim we just experienced are filled with so much simcha (joy). Where does that, however, leave those who have gone through, or are currently going through serious and painful life challenges? This article addresses this issue from classical Torah sources.
The final Mishnah in Brachot says — “Chayav ha’adam levareich al hara’ah
k’sheim she’mevareich al hatova — One is obligated to make a bracha (blessing) on the ra’ah (difficult and painful) just like one makes a bracha on the tov (clearly beneficial).” It learns this from the mitzvah of ahavat Hashem, to love Hashem, “b’chol m’odecha” — with every single middah (attribute) which one is given from Hashem — whether middah tova (the positive attribute) or middah puranut (the attribute of retribution). The Gemara Brachot 60b explains that the word “k’sheim” (“just like”), which equates how one should respond to both positive and difficult news, cannot mean that the very same bracha is said. Previously, the Gemara (Brachot 54b) spelled out that when something tov occurs to us, we say the bracha — “HaTov v’HaMeitiv” (“The One Who is good and does good”), and when something ra’ah occurs to us we say the bracha — “Dayan HaEmet” (“The true Judge”). Although these two very different brachot are said, depending on how the situation appears to us, the Gemara answers that both of them equally must be said with “simcha” — usually translated as “joy.”
The obvious question is, first — why Chazal (the Sages of blessed memory) would want us to do this, and more pointedly — how they could expect us to be able to do this?
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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.