Hard Times

Did I get your attention? That was my intention.

“THE REBBE DECLARED: LOOK! EVERYONE SAYS THERE IS ‘THIS WORLD’ AND ‘THE WORLD TO COME’. NOW WE [CERTAINLY] BELIEVE THERE IS A WORLD TO COME. AND IT’S POSSIBLE THAT AN OLAM HAZEH EXISTS IN SOME UNIVERSE [TOO]. BUT HERE IT LOOKS MORE LIKE HELL, BECAUSE EVERYONE IS FULL OF GREAT SUFFERING – ALWAYS!”

“[HE] ALSO SAID: THERE IS NO OLAM HAZEH AT ALL!”

(Tinyana 119)

I think we’re brought up with a certain misconception about life. Kids are always complaining that “it’s not fair!” They’re right! It’s not. Maybe it’s because we’re taught that Hashem is only good? Well, that’s true. He is perfectly good and everything that happens to us is unquestionably for the best, but life is still replete with suffering. It’s technically all good because there is a Divine plan that we don’t understand. But we don’t experience life as all good. Everyone suffers all the time, says Rebbe Nachman. Everyone. All the time. That’s a fact of life that I don’t need to prove to you, because I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself.

There’s no contradiction to the fact that Hashem is purely good and that we experience great pain. Why do we suppress those thoughts about how hard things are when they surface? Why do we lie to ourselves and to our children that everything is fair and great? I think it’s extremely confusing.

This is why we need to constantly remind ourselves of the rebbe’s crucial advice (Torah 282) of searching for the good in everything. Because even though there is real suffering everywhere we look, there is also tremendous open kindness and goodness. Our job is to train ourselves to focus on the good. Our eyes were given to us to see the good. Our minds were put in our heads to think about the good in ourselves, in others, in the world and in Hashem. It’s true that there’s bad too. You’d have to be a fool not to notice how bad things are everywhere. But we have an important mission: Look for the good. There are bad people, but our job is to see the good in them. We do bad things too, but our job is to see our own good.

I think this is a subtle point. It’s not ‘all good’. It’s good and bad. But we need to over-identify with the good. That’s how we can literally expand the good outward.

 

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