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Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5775

Ein Ayah: Dealing with Adversity on Shabbat

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 1:48)

Gemara: Rabbi Chanina said: It is with reluctance that they permitted to console the bereaved and visit the sick on Shabbat.


Ein Ayah: Shabbat is a day of rest that is a harbinger of a day that is totally Shabbat (the Days to Come), about which it says, “It is good to thank Hashem” and “For You, Hashem, have made me happy with that which You do” (Tehillim 92: 2, 5).

When one looks at present-day life, which is full of many bad things – anguish, disease, death, and all that relate to them – he may come to the conclusion that it would have been better for man to not have been born than to have been born (see Eiruvin 13b). With such an outlook, it is hard to think of thanking Hashem and being happy with His actions. However, one should view life as a crossing area to a good, happy future life, where evil disappears like a cloud and man’s abuse of his fellow man ceases, and people’s views, characteristics, and actions will be purified. Then, he will see things in a more positive light. The natural hardships, which came into the world to make man “surrender” to Hashem and stop acting wantonly, will cease at that time, and there will not be a need to make man surrender.

One who views the world as a passageway to a world of peace and comfort will be happy with what Hashem did and realize that it is good to thank Hashem for it all. When a person is able to reach this higher spiritual/intellectual mode, he will find himself beyond the world’s hardships and dwelling in a lofty place. One who has such wisdom is like one in whose time the Beit Hamikdash was built (see Berachot 33a). The future will appear to him as if it is already the present. This is because when one sees something good as coming without a doubt and all ready, he is happy about it even before it comes.

Therefore, on the holy day of Shabbat, a person should look at creation in a way that he sees that which is positive. He should contemplate the tranquility, comfort, and pleasure, as well as the sanctity and blessing. These are things that will exist eternally and only increase over time, while bad things – both in the physical and spiritual realm – will disappear.

Man is not capable of viewing the world in this true and positive manner when his human eyes see before him very painful situations. When he sees the worst part of existence, disease and death, his spirit will be polluted to the point that it will be difficult to lift himself beyond the present and the influences that his senses have over him. He will miss out on the great treasures of sacred images that are fitting for the holy day of Shabbat. He will not be focused, as he should, on the wonder of creation and the love of Hashem that it can bring, by looking to the future and thanking Hashem who brings those good things.

For this reason, it was only reluctantly that they allowed consoling the bereaved and visiting the sick. It is possible but difficult for a person to not allow his spirit to be dampened by the pain of our life of transition but, rather, to see the good that is waiting on the “other side of the wall.” This is the situation when he witnesses the bitterness of death, and the mourning that comes with it, and the pain of disease, and this is what happens to one who visits the bereaved and the infirmed. These sufferers, who are in a difficult state due to the problems of the present-day world, represent the antithesis of the state of mind that we are seeking to achieve on Shabbat. Therefore, it is only reluctantly that it was permitted to visit them.

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