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Shabbat Parashat Beshalach 5773

Ein Ayah: Bitter Elements to Produce a Sweet Life

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:233)

Gemara:  [At the time that Rabbi Akiva was dying a torturous death at the hands of the Romans], the angels said before Hashem: “This is Torah, and this is its reward?” The angels cited the pasuk (Tehillim 17:14): “To die by Your hand, to die at an old age.” Hashem answered [by citing the continuation of the pasuk]: “Their place is in [eternal] life”


Ein Ayah: Life, in general, is made up of a combination of many scenarios: scenarios of torment and of happiness, anguish and rejoicing. Only when all these experiences merge together do they adopt their true characteristic, and they are called “life.” One who is truly wise, who understands all the complexity of life, will not have difficulty accepting all the elements of life, including the difficult ones, because he understands that they form one tapestry.

For example, the dark of night, when viewed individually, is generally seen as an unwanted situation. However, when combining it with the light of day, so that night serves as a contrast from day, then it is a positive thing. Similarly, sorrow joins with joy to create a proper balance.

The greater a life is the greater its impact will be. It is clear that the goal of everything is goodness and a feeling of calm and spiritual delight. Sorrow, anguish, and bitterness exist just to serve as a contrast so that the value of goodness and sweetness will be that much more clear. It is understandable that one will look at all that transpires and view episodes of pain and not understand how Hashem could be behind them. However, Hashem is He who gives out life to all that live, and before Him all the secrets of life in all their depth are revealed. He knows that the pain is just like one seed of mustard or one granule of salt, which comes to spice a pot full of food. While it is sharp, without it the food would not be seasoned.

One has to look for an answer for the intellectually appropriate question: why must it be that in order for Torah to survive and flourish in Israel, special people have to accept horrible physical afflictions. This was the angels’ question of “This is Torah, and this is its reward?” Hashem’s very profound answer is that it is all are arranged according to the value of each person’s life.

In order for all to be balanced in the proper way so that there will be a complete picture of a complex life, there is a need for a bitter element. That element is horrible by itself but takes its part in making a wonderful life. This is as the pasuk (Tehillim 36:8) says: “How dear is Your kindness, Hashem.”

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R' Meir

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld



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