Trumah 5767

June 23, 2009

< 1 min read


Trumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19 )

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GOOD MORNING! Last week I shared with you insights and wisdom on "Why do bad things happen to good people?" by my beloved Aish HaTorah colleague, Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt, in Finding Light in the Darkness - The Toughest Challenges and How to Grow from Them (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). This week I will share with you his insights into the difference between pain and suffering.

I previously mentioned Rabbi Rosenblatt's credentials for writing on this topic. At age 27 his wife and mother of 4, Elana, finds out she has cancer. After 3 years of embracing life and fighting for life, Elana returns her soul to her Maker and Shaul is left a widower to care for his children. Here are his thoughts on the difference between pain and suffering:

"We all go through pain in this world. It comes at us from the outside. Suffering, however, is self-inflicted. It depends entirely on how we decide to respond to our pain. If we allow pain to take over, to overwhelm us; if we allow ourselves to slip into the attractive comfort of despair, then we suffer. If we face pain and rise to the challenge, then we will still go through the pain, but we do not have to suffer.

"Day after day, month after month, year after year, I watched Elana in pain — if not physical, then emotional. She desperately wanted to see her children grow up; she wanted to dance at their weddings, but knew in her heart of hearts that she never would. She went through immense anguish.

"Never once, however, did I see her suffer. Not a single moment. Pain was not her enemy. It was her means for growth. Apathy was her enemy. Anger was her enemy. Despair was her enemy. Giving up was her enemy. But not pain.

"We can see the same thing in less extreme cases. When a woman gives birth, she goes through tremendous pain, but does she suffer? Bringing up children is incredibly painful — on many levels. But do we call it suffering? Running a marathon is overwhelmingly painful for the last few miles (and if you are as unfit as I am, then for all the miles previous to that also!), but is it suffering?

"I think the distinction between pain and suffering is as follows: If we are able to find meaning in pain, then we do not suffer. If we are unable to find meaning in pain, then it becomes overwhelming and we call that feeling of being overwhelmed 'suffering.'

"The simple ability to put pain into a meaningful context enables us to cope with it. Elana used to quote Nietzche saying, 'A man can deal with any what, as long as he has a good enough why.'

"A child, for example, cuts his finger and screams the house down. An adult cuts his finger and gets on with life. Children live in the here and now, so a child has no context for his pain. There is no meaningful future to look forward to, just the immediacy of the pain. An adult realizes that the pain will pass and life will be good again in spite it. He doesn't suffer. And, by the way, why is it that when you hug and kiss a child the pain seems to go? It's not the pain that goes, it's the suffering. You have given the child a meaningful context for the pain — the context of a parent's love. The child still feels the pain, but with a newfound context for it, he no longer suffers.

"An adult must find his own meaning in his pain. Sometimes it is obvious, as in the case of a woman in labor. Sometimes it is a little harder. But when he or she can look at the pain as a means to grow, a means to develop deeper self-understanding, then the pain remains, but the suffering will be forgotten.

"Everyone goes through pain in life. But not one of us has to suffer if we do not want to.

"Again, the choice is ours."

For more on "Suffering" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

This week's Torah reading is an architect's or interior designer's dream portion. It begins with the Almighty commanding Moses to tell the Jewish people to bring an offering of the materials necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.

The Torah continues with the details for constructing the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Tabernacle (the central area of worship containing the Ark, the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table), the Beams composing the walls of the Tabernacle, the Cloth partition (separating the Holy of Holies where the Ark rested from the remaining Sanctuary part of the Tabernacle), the Altar and the Enclosure for the Tabernacle (surrounding curtains forming a rectangle within which was a large area approximately 15x larger than the Tabernacle).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Cover (the ark) with a layer of pure gold on the inside and outside and make a gold rim all around its top." (Ex. 25:11)

Why was it necessary to cover the ark with gold on the inside?

The Talmud (Tractate Yoma 72b) comments that from here we see symbolized that a Torah scholar must be pure inside as well as outside to be considered a Talmid Chochom, a Torah scholar. That is, just as the ark which symbolized Torah knowledge had gold on both the inside and the outside, so too a Torah scholar is not someone who just speaks wisdom on the outside, but he must also internalize his wisdom and live with it.

There have been many intellectuals throughout the ages who have espoused profound philosophical ideals. They have expressed the most elevated thoughts of universal love for humanity. However, in their own private lives they have been arrogant and cared only for their ideas, but not for the people with whom they actually had to deal with on a daily basis. This is not the Torah concept of a Talmid Chochom, Torah scholar. To be considered a true Torah scholar and not merely someone who carries a lot of book knowledge with him, one must practice the lofty ideals that he speaks about. This has held true for all our revered Torah scholars both in ancient and modern times.

Our lesson: Whenever you speak about lofty thoughts, ask yourself whether you actually follow the principles you speak about. If not, do not stop speaking about those ideals, rather you should elevate your behavior.


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