APPRECIATING OUR CHALLENGES
In synagogue every Shabbat I see a woman who is totally bent over because she has some problem that does not allow her to ever straighten her back. I think to myself: every day we say the blessing “zokeaf kefufim” (Hashem straightens the bent) and it never had as much meaning as it does when I see this particular woman. As I watch her every week I think to myself. “ she is in a perpetual state of bitul, being prostrated in front of the Creator”. But I also noticed that she is always happy. She is always with a smile on her face, never looking bitter, angry or upset. I find myself in awe of this person: a simple Jew who does not complain and seems so grateful for her life!
And I realize that everyone has their own personal challenges. To each person, their particular challenge seems formidable, difficult and overwhelming. But each challenge is tailored to each person’s soul and what the soul needs to fix and accomplish in this world. Each soul is different. Each person’s past life is unique. Each person’s blemishes are unique and have a specific formula of challenges or sufferings to purify us from those blemishes and help us reach a higher level spiritually.
When we see the suffering and difficulties of others, we often can begin to appreciate and even feel thankful for our own challenges. We begin to appreciate what we have, including the hardships. When we see someone else suffering, we need to pray for that person and to really feel compassion. And we of course need to thank Hashem for not giving us that particular challenge.
We are then better able to actually thank Hashem for whatever good we do have. But often that begins by being able to thank Hashem for what we don’t have. And in reality the siddur is the same pattern of thinking: in morning brachot we thank Hashem for not making me a servant etc. We do not say thank You Hashem for making me free. And I think that perhaps one reason is because when we say thank you for not making me a slave, we emphasize the hardships of being a slave and we are then able to appreciate freedom. If we would simply say thank You for making me free, it would not have the same deep meaning or feeling. It is the idea of the greatness of light that comes from darkness. If darkness did not precede light, how much would we truly appreciate light?
And we can apply this to our life in many ways: when we want to thank Hashem for everything we have and for the blessings He bestows upon us, we need to sometimes begin with realizing what He does not give us: the suffering and challenges that, Baruch Hashem, we are spared. And we need to pray never to have such challenges. And then we are able to even thank Hashem for the difficulties we go through and the challenges He sends to each one of us. Because often when we compare our difficulties to the hardships of others, we are able to find a point of light and happiness within our own darkness and suffering. That gives us strength to go forward in life and even to accept each suffering or challenge with joy.
We also have to maintain an attitude of humility in life: to be aware that any good deed we do, or any charity we give, is only because Hashem blesses us and allows us to do so. WE are simply giving back to Him and giving of what belongs to Him. We are His messenger and we need to thank Him for the privilege of allowing us or choosing us to do these good deeds. When we remain humble it helps us to remain appreciative and not to feel angry or resentful of others.
Having an ayin tov, a good eye, when we look at others is so important. We need to be able to truly feel happy for another person’s happiness, and to feel compassion for another person’s suffering. We need to look at everyone with a good eye and without a judgmental attitude. To train ourselves to see the good in others, and to see the good in our own lives, helps us to relate to Hashem with more positivity. And consequently He also relates to us more positively.
We know the adage :”think good it will be good”. And in reality we need to train ourselves to think good: to think only good. Not to allow any doubt or negative thoughts to enter our minds. To truly believe all will be good. And as we increase our trust and positive thoughts, we are bound to see positive results.