The teachings of Rebbe Nachman and his chief disciple Rabbi Natan are voluminous - together they wrote thousands of pages of innovative ideas in Torah that opened up new vistas in our understanding of G-d and how to enjoy life the good Jewish way. We also have thousands of pages of additional commentary, written by others, that explain and clarify the Rebbe's teachings.
In all of these writings, says Rabbi Shalom Arush, there is one enigmatic idea that has the power to help us more than anything else - that is the idea that our ultimate happiness in life is proportionate to our gratitude for the difficult circumstances that G-d puts us in. For some this means that they were born with a low IQ; for others it means that they are not physically attractive; for others it means they were given a difficult marital partner or a rebellious child; for still others it might mean trouble in earning a livelihood or dealing with health issues. Whatever the deficiency is, the Rebbe cautions us to embrace it and recognize that it is merely a test that G-d is sending us for our ultimate soul-correction and success in life.
You might ask: How logical is it to love our deficiencies and defects ? Do we have any chance of overcoming our difficulties if we sit back passively thinking that our troubles are all for the best?
The Torah is not confined to logic - neither are miracles.
This past week I had a severe flare up of neck, shoulder and back pain. At the height of my distress I was barely able to move . Confined to my bed, I asked Hashem for help but it was not forthcoming. After a few days, I went to the doctor who said that I probably have arthritis. He doctor proceeded to hand me three prescriptions and dismissed me from his office.
The following day I managed to go to Yeshiva but only with extreme discomfort. I could barely turn or lift my head without pain. One of my friends noticed me straining to make a cup of coffee and asked me if I was alright. When I told him about my back pain, he said that back pain was often a punishment for speaking lashon hara (evil speech, gossip) about someone. I honestly did not appreciate his comment, but Hashem selects his messengers with Divine Wisdom. In the end, my friend's blunt remark was far more helpful to me than my visit to the doctor was.
That night I did what I should have done from the onset; I drove straight to the gravesite of Samuel the Prophet and poured my heart out to Hashem. I began by trying to thank Hashem for the pain. I told Him that I knew that He wanted to help me by reminding me of some transgression that I had committed but that I could not remember what it was. I told Him that I could not function in this condition and was falling short on my obligations to Him. Humbled by the pain, I begged Hashem to remind me of what I did wrong so that I could repent and continue serving him as I had before.
Sure enough, after a half hour, I remembered a few incidents where I had in fact violated some of the laws of speech. I apologized to Hashem for what I did and promised Him that I would try much harder to be more careful, in the future, to not make even the smallest comment about someone that could be construed as not good. I continued by asking Hashem to forgive me for these transgressions and to likewise cleanse me and purify me from the sins that I no longer remembered. I thanked Hashem for letting me know through my friend, the meaning of my pain symptoms and for the opportunity to fix whatever I could fix. I thanked him for the pain that I still felt as I drove home - only this time I meant it.
The next morning, I woke up and the pain was gone! There were some tinges of residual discomfort, but I felt about 95% better. I practically bounced out of bed with joy.
Doctors do not understand the root of your pain and therefore do not have the slightest idea about how to remove it - they have no idea at all that your pain is the key to your ultimate happiness. Once you get to the root of your pain, which is always a spiritual issue, it is certain that you will have great relief - it is guaranteed.
Rabbi Shalom Arush said: If you could ask for just one thing what would it be? King David said that his only request was that he merit to dwell in the House of Hashem for all of the days of his life - to be connected to Hashem, his Torah and his Tzadikkim - and that is all - you can keep the rest. Do you think that there is something better or more medicinal than this? If so, asks Reb Shalom - what is it? What could possibly stand in Hashem's place? If King David, one of the wisest men to ever walk the earth tells you not to put your faith in people but just trust in Hashem - are you going to doubt that? You must really believe that there will be an end to your suffering - Hashem is not limited to having to manage your pain - he can uproot it completely. The evil inclination can also give you relief from your pain, and without having to repent. But beware - he may come to you dressed in a white lab coat wearing a gentle smile. Medical and psychotherapeutic advice that take you out of "Hashem's House" may temporarily relieve your pain, but in the end you will have more to worry about.
As my Rebbe Blessed us yesterday, I Bless you now - you should merit to stand before Hashem in Truth... to pour out rivers of tears before Him...and may He speedily send you relief from all suffering.
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Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: email@example.com or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line). See the new blog at: www.zevballen.com.