We must translate pain into action, and tears
into growth -- The Rebbe
An artist, after suffering from a personal tragedy, wrote
to the Rebbe about his depression and despair. The Rebbe wrote
back: The genius of the artist is his ability to detach
himself from the external qualities of the object he is portraying,
to look deeply into the object and see its essence. He must
then be able to express that essence so that whoever views
the painting sees an essence that he, the viewer, had never
noticed in the object itself. The same applies to each individual;
his inner essence is his G-dliness. One must take great care
so that the external trappings of his life should not obscure
his essence. The tragedies of life must be seen for what they
really are: part of the divine system of challenge and endeavor,
which enables us to achieve the highest levels of happiness
What is the purpose of pain?
Why is there so much suffering in the world? How do we deal
with emotional, spiritual, and psychological pain? Why does
G-d sometimes allow righteous people to suffer such extreme
These questions pose a paradox. The very fact that we are
naturally upset by suffering testifies to our belief in a
fair and righteous G-d, whom we expect to rule the world justly.
And yet, we see that pain and suffering cause many people
to question the very existence of G-d, or at least His effectiveness.
Even in the deepest moments of despair, we must realize that
our absolute faith is what gives us the capacity to understand
and deal with our pain. With G-d at the helm, we can accept
pain as part of the challenge of life; it motivates us to
seek answers, to explore our relationship with G-d, and to
grow from the experience.
Are there any benefits to pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering are opportunities to challenge the way
we look at life. When things are going well, we tend to take
life for granted, but trauma brings us to the edges of life,
allowing us to view it from a new, revealing angle.
So the real question we must ask is not just why we
sometimes feel such acute pain, but what we are meant to learn
When you see beyond a one-dimensional life, when you realize
that you are comprised of not just a body but a body and a
soul, you recognize that there is a far higher purpose to
your life, and a far deeper meaning to your pain.
The only true explanation for pain and suffering is that
the world itself is intrinsically good and that pain and suffering
are somehow part of the larger good. This is not to suggest
that pain itself is good, nor that we should peacefully
accept it. In fact, we must express our feelings of pain to
the fullest, and do everything in our power to alleviate suffering
in ourselves and in others.
It is your duty to discover how pain may be a blessing in
disguise and to overcome the pain and restore harmony to your
body and soul. Consider the inevitable frustration that precedes
any creative growth, or the intense pain that a woman feels
while giving birth. No matter how great such pain may be,
it is ultimately justified by the goodness it produces.
How can we relieve our pain?
It is important that you see pain as a test that examines
how consumed you are with material comfort as opposed to spiritual
Instead of being broken by pain, you must demonstrate your
complete trust in G-d by continuing your life with an intense
commitment to goodness, thereby challenging G-d to live up
to His promises of being righteous and fair. Trust in G-d
is our way of turning pain around. It proves to G-d that,
although we may not fully understand our pain, we recognize
it as part of a greater good. And despite our setbacks, despite
our confusion, despite our pain, we remain absolutely confident
that goodness will prevail.
Freeing yourself from pain can only come about through movement
-- moving away and distracting yourself from the painful situation,
moving away from the cause that produced such painful symptoms.
This movement may be as simple as finding a new friend, reading
a new book, getting involved in a project or taking a class
-- anything to alter your solitary, limited perspective on
yourself and the world.
For some, starting the climb out of pain requires a strong
push, or even hitting rock bottom. This is where true friends
play a vital role. When someone you love and care for is in
pain, you must be there for him, no matter what he needs.
He may say he wants to be alone, that he wants to work through
his problems, but you must recognize that this will not work,
that the answer is to broaden his perspective, not further
limit it. Find a way to spend time with him, to talk with
him, to share your thoughts with each other. Most important,
love him and help him help himself.
This is an excerpt from Toward a Meaningful Life
The Wisdom of the Rebbe by Rabbi Simon Jacobson.