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Thought for the Day: Learning from the יצר רע to Survive Adversity (Maybe Even Thrive)

For those of you who have never experienced a hangover, let me just note that even parts of one's body that are barely alive -- such as toenails -- become vibrantly alive with pain.  One would think, therefore, that one hangover would be enough to cure one forever of overindulging.  I can, to my shame, testify that it ain't so.  We seem to have this amazing ability to completely forget the pain and suffering for the anticipated ever so slight pleasure of indulging once again.

What's with that?  Why would HaShem makes things so hard for us?  Wouldn't it be better to easily remember the pain therefore be able to make a rational assessment of the loss versus the gain to come to the obvious conclusion?  Instead, I set loss to "well, gee... I can't seem to remember any real loss" and the anticipated gain to "amazing, as I recall"; let's go for it!

I heard a story about a gadol who was thrown into prison.  The first morning he started to say shacharis and and just started Baruch Sh'amar when he was struck by these words: ברוך אומר ועושה ברוך גוזר ומקיים/Blessed is He Who Says and Does; Blessed is He Who Decrees and Fulfills.  What's the problem?  That is the very same declaration that Chazal decreed to be said upon seeing the land of Bavel being destroyed (that is, even the dirt of Bavel being taken away).  Rashi comments there, " Decreed that it should be destroyed, and He fulfilled that "  As this gadol was sitting in prison, he could not understand why he should pray that this situation -- obviously a decree from above -- should continue.  Being a gadol b'yirsrael, he davened that he should not be released from prison until he has come to understand the meaning and purpose of this request with which we begin our preparations for t'fila every morning.

After some time he finally came to understand that גוזר/decree and מקיים/sustain are not referring to the same subject.  His understanding was that HaShem decrees -- and the decrees can be difficult, but then He also Sustains us, not the decree.  The decree is the decree, but we have to then live in a new world, a world of reset challenges and opportunities because of that decree.  HaShem gives us all that we need to survive and thrive in that new world.

Why do we so easily forget pain and focus only on the outcome?  As usual, that is not HaShem making things difficult for us, but giving us a tremendous opportunity.  Any laudable goal requires effort and struggle to achieve.  More than that, any goal worthy of my attention also requires effort and struggle -- even the bad ones!  Even when I am seeking nothing but my own, selfish pleasure, it's not worth anything if I don't have to put some effort into achieving it.  So let us consider... if we can so easily forget the pain of a sin and be so focussed on the perceived/anticipated of a goal that is counter to HaShem's Will, then all the more so we can use that very same character trait to drive to success on fulfilling His Will and achieving our goal in being created.

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