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Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar 5776

Ein Ayah: Enough to Know About Hardship

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:202)

Gemara: Rav Yitzchak the son of Rav Yehuda said: One should always request mercy that he will not become ill, for if he becomes ill, they say to him: “Present merit, and you will be freed of it.”


Ein Ayah: Disease, like all hardships in the world, has a moral purpose, namely, to soften a person’s hard heart, thereby enabling one to more easily surrender to Hashem’s good path for man. Just as there is a value in illness or another affliction actually occurring, there is also value in its existence without afflicting someone, in that it takes away from his tranquility, making him aware that only with Hashem’s help and mercy will he avoid them. If that mindset works for a person, then the potential of the hardships is sufficient for him without their occurring. His heart will be softened by concern about potential hardships and by the request that they not come, which connects his heart and mind to Hashem.

As long as the person is in such a proper state that the concern for what could happen has the same impact as the actual hardship does for most people, that suffices, and he can remain healthy with Hashem’s mercy resting upon him. This also serves as a sign that his spirit is pure enough that he remains holy enough that he does not turn to actually sinning, even if there are certain tendencies for bad in his thought process.

Still, to overcome those problems, there is just a need for a hint of what could happen along with a request of mercy, which includes man exposing himself as vulnerable and in need of divine mercy. These feelings uplift him in the ways of Hashem and curb the stupidity of images produced by lowly desires, which chase people away from the courtyards of Hashem. These uplifting experiences will return him to love of Hashem and following in His paths.

If a person actually becomes sick, it is a sign that his spiritual side deteriorated to the point that he needs a jarring situation and not just a hint at one, in order to remove the impurities. It must be that his negative side is not just a matter of images, for which images would remedy, but that it reached stages of actualization. In order to overcome this and not remain ill, there is a need for real merits, the products of actions, which can help counteract the damage to his soul. He needs to beg for mercy that these positive powers will suffice to stem the tide without the need for illness. Such sincere requests can raise him to the point that he can fix himself not only according to the situation he is in at the time but even one that he might come to in the future. 

Based on these merits, he can succeed in having any changes within him being for the better. After all, Hashem is always prepared to bestow good, and a person just has to be ready to receive it properly. Asking for mercy is such a preparation to receive divine grace, as it purifies the emotions to be ready to do good deeds and contemplate proper beliefs, which straighten out a person without illness and afflictions. This is as the pasuk says: “It shall be if you listen to Hashem’s voice and do what is straight in His eyes and listen to His mitzvot and follow His statutes, all of the illnesses that I placed upon Egypt, I will not place upon you, for I am Hashem, who heals you” (Shemot 15:26).

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