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Thought for the Day: The Joy of Challenges in Avodas HaShem

I work in downtown Chicago.  I like working downtown.  In fact, when I had an occasion to seek new employment some time ago, I narrowed my search to the downtown area.  Why?  I ride my bike to work.  I really enjoy the ride and anything closer to home would not have given my a long enough ride.  There are lots of reasons for that, not least of which is that I like the exercise.  While I certainly could find other ways to exercise; I know myself and know it wouldn't happen.  With a bike ride to work, I get a nice bit of exercise in the morning and another in the evening.  To me, this is the perfect example of liking something that is good for me.  I didn't always enjoy this kind of workout, at it took (more than) a bit of work to get over my laziness and whining hump.  Now, thought, besides the fact that the bike ride it good for me (keeps my weight down, manages my cholesterol and blood pressure, keeps my heart healthy, etc), I also take some pride just in the fact that I have that ride.

The M'silas Y'sharim, in the chapter on Chasidus (scrupulous piety/saintliness) describes the way a person at that level experiences challenges in avodas HaShem.  Imagine a person working in loving HaShem and gets thrown a curve ball; loss of job, difficulty with children, cancer... not hard to imagine difficulties.  The M'silas Y'sharim notes that are two ways to deal with those situations.  The lower level (for just the run of the mill saintly person, I guess) is to tell oneself, "Everything that HaShem does is for the good and He loves me, so this must also be for the good.  Even though it hurts, I know it is good for me and so I'll thank HaShem for it, the same way I would thank a surgeon who had to operate to save my life.  The pain is due to the nature of the disease and its cure.  Baruch HaShem!"  (That's the lower level!?  Lord have mercy.)

What's the higher level?  The higher level is to look at any and every challenge as an opportunity to demonstrate in deed what he has been expressing in word.  He gets to "walk the talk", as it were.  He doesn't need to have faith that it will be good, he is excited that things are difficult!  Note that he does not say, "This feels good.", nor even "This is good for me."  That would defeat the purpose, after all.  This person looks forward to the difficulties because they are difficult.

Is it possible to imagine that level?  The first night of Sukkos I heard about a Jew who moved to Amercia in the late 30s.  Every week he started a new job on Sunday, and every Friday he was given a dismissal slip.  Week after week, month after month.  Each Friday afternoon, he would add this new dismissal slip to his collection.  Why was he saving them?  When Sukkos came that year, he built whatever kind of sukkah he could.  Then he decorated it -- with every single dismissal slip.  Each slip was to him an extra dimension of beauty added to his sukkah.

All year he must have been planning this.  He wasn't worried about losing his job each week; he was looking forward to getting another sukkah decoration.


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