Many of us remember the infamous summer day in 2014 when three Israeli teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered in Gush Etzion while hitchhiking home for Shabbos. For the next eighteen days that authorities searched for our boys, the communal unity and heartfelt prayers were infectious. It was a time that I’ll never forget.
No less than three days after the kidnapping a star in Israel was born. Mrs. Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of one of the victims and an experienced educator, burst on to the scene with her exemplary faith and profound words of encouragement. Since then she has become an international speaker and nothing short of a religious heroine.
In Torah 65 Rebbe Nachman teaches that through suffering we can merit a new comprehension in Torah. Reb Nosson (‘נטילת ידים ד) is quick to explain that this ‘new understanding’ isn’t limited to a creative explanation of Talmudic law but it also includes grasping a fresh look on life. After we go through a crisis, God forbid, we experience true dependency on God and catch a glimpse of our life’s purpose. We often come back to reality with new insight and awareness.
Sometimes, thank God, we don’t need to encounter enormous tragedy to experience this kind of awakening. More often this happens to us while we sleep. We frequently go to bed mentally exhausted and emotionally spent. We close our eyes, drift away into another world and wake up, by the grace of God, revitalized not only physically but also mentally.
One morning the Baal Shem Tov asked Chaikel the water carrier, “How are you”? Chaikel responded, “Rabbi, if you really want to know, I’m suffering. I have three daughters to marry off and I can’t pay for a dowry with the pennies that I make shlepping water. My back is broken from the hard labor and my wife is always yelling at me that we have no money to cover our expenses!” So the Rabbi blessed him with success. The next day the Baal Shem happened to see Chaikel again in the marketplace. “How are you today Chaikel”? “Not bad Rabbi. I know this job is tough but at least it’s a steady income and I’m not unemployed. My daughters are so great and I’m sure some good boys will gobble them up. And I can’t blame my wife. She’s had a hard life and she means well”.
So the Baal Shem Tov turned to his students and asked, “What happened? Nothing changed for Chaikel. He still has no money, three unmarried daughters and a testy wife! But today he woke up refreshed. He changed his perspective. He has a new understanding of things” (heard from Rav Moshe Weinberger).
.”חדשים לבקרים, רבה אמונתיך”
“[Your Kindness] is renewed every morning. Your loyalty is abundant”.
I pray that we all never experience any suffering. Instead we should find those original perspectives without anguish, like from our sleep. But as the prophet Isaiah states, Although God leads the expectant mother in pain to the birthing stool, it’s from there that He brings forth new life!