This essay is Part Two of a three-part series on “Understanding and Accepting Nechama.” Click here to read Part One.
Rav Moshe Weinberger, based on an essay from Rav Kluger, explained the meaning of nechama:
“A family was sitting shiva for their loved ones that had died in a terrible accident. They were trying to think what they could accept upon themselves to do to improve, perhaps through working on their middot (character traits) or their actions. Right then, a prominent Rav entered to pay a shiva visit to them. The eldest told him what they had just been speaking about and asked the Rav what they should accept upon themselves as a result of what had happened. He answered that what they should accept upon themselves was tanchumim (to receive nechama). While it is obviously always good to try to do more mitzvot and less aveirot (transgressions), that was not what he told them. Rather what he told them to accept upon themselves at that time was specifically nechama.
An important aspect of nechama is the reassurance from Hashem that we are not alone. And that whatever happens to us is for our eternal good. There is a purpose to every pain and difficulty of both the body and the soul. Whatever happens to us, in any area of our life, no matter how small it may be, has a beneficial goal.
The key question, of course, is — What exactly is nechama? In general, we need to understand how there can even be nechama after aveilut (mourning). If it was really appropriate, and Hashem had wanted us to initially have this pain and anguish, then what is the point of the nechama [to then minimize it]? And if there is really the possibility to give nechama to one who is suffering, then what was the point of the pain in the first place?
Nechama is actually the transition between the aveilut to the state that comes afterwards. Accepting nechama for some pain or loss means that one has now agreed to change how he views this pain or loss, to a new way of thinking and feeling.
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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. OlamiResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com. This essay should be l’zechut ul’iluy nishmat Ruchama Rivka, a”h, bat Asher Zevulun.