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Suffering and Faith


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 15, 5774
I watched this film, A Serious Man which is basically a modern day version of the book of Job, and I feel more of a understanding to it and more of a connection to my own life. Job loses everything and suffers and I think this year I shared the similar fate to him. Lost friends because of a major incident that occurred and I also got very sick had to be in the hospital for months. It’s come to me as sort of a revaluation of pain and torment when it comes to faith, we as humans have problems and suffer but our faith is absolute. However I question this notion, is it Hashem’s will for us to endure suffering and pain as evidence to our obedience or faith in him? Or does it show the infinite power of Hashem to affect our lives in anyway and we must accept it because it’s Hashem’s will? Cracked open the book of Job last night after watching the movie and I thought it would answer these questions but it didn’t unfortunately. Made me question even more if Job was in fact right to accept all of these awful things, and I relate it personally to me in all that has happened. So I wanted to hear your opinion.
Hashem Imach, You ask a very good question. Life is full of challenges, and it is up to us to use all of them to grow. That’s why chazal teach us to bless Hashem for (what seems to us to be) good, as well as for (what seems to us to be) bad (Brachot 33b), because it’s really all for the good. You clearly have undergone hardships and challenges which can easily bring one down to despair, self-pity, and pessimism. Instead, try focusing on the positive. There’s a similar story of a Jew who wanted to learn how to deal with difficulties, so the Rebbe sent him to Rav Zusia, the poor. Upon his question, answered Rav Zusia, “I don’t know why the Rebbe sent you to me, for I have so many blessings from Hashem, and don’t have any difficulties!” In addition, as is often the case, when you grow older, you learn that we were taught as children simplistic concepts, which need to be learned again on a higher and truer adult level. Hashem is perfect and despite what you may have learned in your childhood, He clearly doesn’t “need” our prayers nor our “obedience” or “faith”, just as He doesn’t need anything! We must be careful, not to project upon God any feelings of ego or being power-hungry, or any other feelings that we ourselves would feel if we were God. Being Perfect, all of the commandments and all of the challenges we face are for our benefit, not His. Similarly, there is no one whom He doesn’t “want to bother with”. He cares about all His children (if you have children you clearly understand this), yet some of them prefer living in only the physical realm, and prefer their “reward” and pleasure in this world- so that’s what He gives them, while the more righteous can enjoy their reward sometimes in this world, and always in the world to come. Prayer is in place of the korbanot (sacrifices), which is from the word “karov”, for us to feel close to Him, which is one of the greatest levels and feelings that anyone can achieve. The closest we can understand about G-d, is like a parent who educates His child, through love and giving, but also through sometimes saying “No”, and sometimes guiding us towards and through challenges that seem to be bad, but it’s all in our best interest. That’s part of His being perfect. In short, try and appreciate the good that He gives you, because many people don’t, and mistakenly focus on the “half-empty” cup. Try, through speaking to Him directly in prayer, to feel that direct connection with Him, for that is one of the main goals in life. With Love of Israel, Happy Pesach! Rabbi Ari Shvat
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