Dear Mrs. Weisberg,
The present era is particularly harsh, especially for the families in Israel. When I was a student at the Hebrew University some 15 years ago, a classmate of mine admired my little boy. Yet she said she could not bring a child into the world who might be blown up by terrorists. I felt sorry for her at the time, but now I realize that her decision was a moral one. A year later, she did have her own child. It seems that the instinctual need for children superseded her moral decision.
I think back on the Hebrew slave women who insisted on bringing children into the world against their husbands’ refusal. Who was morally correct? If Hashem has decreed that we must undergo 300 years of slavery, or 300 years of being blown up, do we have to help Him? Do we have to be his partner in forcing suffering on innocent children?
I want my children to have hope in a brighter future. Reality to me seems otherwise.
Yet I did force my children to live in this world, cruel or not, and I want them to have the most positive outlook possible. How do you deal with these dilemmas yourself as a parent?
You touch some very interesting questions in your letter. I can almost feel your pain, sensitivity and empathy in every word that you write. You are hurting for the pain and suffering of so many people. You feel the suffering is unfair and do not want to be a part of it. I commend the depth of your sensitivity and caring.
But I also feel that caring and sensitivity needs to be directed productively, rather than just “giving up” on it all and saying to G-d, “We want no part in such a world.”
The issues that you bring up can be asked about any form of pain that we encounter in life. Our world is full of pain. For some reason, the world was set up in such a way that sometimes we only grow through these “growing pains”. Every time a child learns how to ride a bike, he invariably skins his knees. When a child begins school, he is full of anxiety and emotional separation pain. Does that mean we stop the child from learning to ride a bike or from attending school? Do we say to G-d, “Sorry, we don’t want to be a part of such a world, where wherever we turn there inevitably is some pain or hardship?” Of course, not.
The pain that you describe, however, runs deeper than normal growing pains. It is a pain that we see absolutely no purpose in, and we feel, as a result, utter helplessness and hopelessness. However, the fact that we cannot identify a purpose to this pain does not mean that there is none. It means rather that we are limited in our comprehension and constrained by the here and now.
Though we may understand this rationally, this doesn’t lessen our emotional reaction. The history of our people is full of hardship, and you are wondering why we should be a part of it – it seems too much to bear. How can we go on after witnessing it?
Think of the Holocaust survivors, who witnessed the most horrible scenes and destruction. I’m sure they wondered how they could ever find room in their hearts to continue living. Yet, they picked up the pieces and put their lives back together – rebuilding and growing. What is it that allowed these individual to put their lives back together?
I think that they found love. They reached out. They saw that their survival was a reason to live to their fullest, to achieve their utmost. They found the room within themselves somehow to continue.
What gave them the strength? Or for that matter, what gives the strength to the mother in Israel who survives terror and whose family is torn apart, whose babies have died, whose relatives were maimed or left handicapped for life? What gives them the ability to go on?
A common thread in each of these lives seems to be how they push themselves, finding that room within themselves to love and to give more. These heroes respond to hatred, violence, pain, destruction and horrible havoc by finding love, finding a meaning and purpose to go on. They’ve been squeezed to the limit, but they’ve discovered more room to reach out to others and create love, purpose and meaning.
So, though we can say to G-d, “We don’t want any more of this plan of Yours,” ultimately, we are just denying and hurting ourselves. This does not mean to say that you have to accept suffering with happiness. We must do whatever we can to eradicate the evil and suffering. Moreover, we must continue to pray, beg, demand and object to G-d for all the suffering that He allows in our world. In fact, He desires and is waiting for such prayers. Even knowing that ultimately we “grow” from the suffering, we beg G-d to stop it, because being Infinite, He can find another way to help us grow without this pain. We do not, nor should we justify any evil or any pain. But, by the same token, the way that we must react is by fighting this evil, by squeezing ourselves that much more ? even when we feel squeezed to the limit – to discover somewhere deep down a greater love to extend to another.
I admire your sensitivity and care for others. But don’t use it to give up on life. Use it rather to do more, help more, love more. In this way, you can achieve the greatest fight against evil – and cause the ultimate end of evil when only peace and happiness will fill our world, with the coming of Moshiach.
Chana Weisberg is the author of “The Crown of Creation” and “The Feminine Soul”. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org‘s Weekly Magazine. Mrs. Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: email@example.com
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