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Toldos: The Good in Suffering

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

“Yitzchak had grown old and his eyesight was fading …” (Bereishis 27:1).

In the Midrash it says that Yitzchak Avinu asked for suffering. Hashem said to him, “... It is a good thing that you ask for, and I’ll start with you,” As it says, “Yitzchak had grown old and his eyesight was fading …”  (Chofetz Chaim on the Torah)

I invited her for a picnic in the park. I told her to bring everyone.

“Nesanel, too?”

“Sure! Why not?”

Nesanel came, pure eyes shining, beautiful blond hair brushing his forehead.

“What a sweetie!”

She nodded, giving me a brilliant smile, and Nesanel a big hug.

At the swings, he disappeared. We forgot about our picnic and set off, hearts pounding, to search for him. We found him marching fearlessly along, five minutes from the highway.

Three more disappearances. And he refused to eat, screaming pitifully from hunger. He wanted peanut butter sandwiches, not cheese. Now.

“Is it always like this?”

“No. This time, he behaved much better than usual!”

A special mother of a special child doesn’t have any days that aren’t special. One day he locks them all out of the house. The next day, he has to be rushed to the emergency room with an asthma attack. Plans to attend a wedding have to be canceled because he won’t fall asleep. A Shabbos meal is cut short because he disappeared again.

When Nesanel was born, she was surrounded by support and flowers, love and chocolates. But when he started getting bigger, she was left alone. And it’s not easy at all.

And the explanation is: … When the person is brought to judgment, all the defenders created from his mitzvos stand at his right, and the many, many accusers stand at his left.… The mitzvos that he did without proper concentration, for ulterior reasons, or for honor, aren’t so powerful, but most of the transgressions … were done with concentration and willingly, with desire. Therefore, they predominate. The person stands … alarmed. Maybe his verdict will be guilty?

But “the Rock Whose way is perfect” commands the person’s sufferings in This World to … come, and they … weigh the scale to the side of merit. Through suffering, sins are atoned. Then he thanks Hashem for those sufferings. This is in the category of “I thank You, Hashem. Though You were angry with me …” (Yeshayah 12:1). (Chofetz Chaim on the Torah )

I phoned her very late. The children, including Nesanel, were sleeping. She tried to describe how topsy-turvy her house was and the strength that she was trying to muster when she was exhausted. We talked about the long corridor that would one day end and the eternal palace waiting beyond it. We talked about Nesanel and the tremendous benefits of physiotherapy and about the headaches and fatigue.

She forgot about the time Nesanel almost poked the baby’s eye with a scissor. She also didn’t mention the neighbor who crossed to the other side of the street whenever she saw Nesanel approaching in his stroller, as if Down syndrome were contagious.

But they’ll be there too, all the masses of hardships, sighs, exhausting days, and endless nights. They’ll pile themselves on the scale. And she’ll look on them with indescribable joy.

“We’ll be so far away, and you’ll be near, so high. We’ll all look at you, at how much you merited!” There it’s forever. And nothing’s forgotten.

You gather up the shards of another broken dish, and in Heaven, each piece is precisely counted. You carry him home, kicking and screaming; each step is counted.

“The fourth floor,” she reminds me. “With no elevator.”

Even more reward.

And that’s what’s said … about Yitzchak: Yitzchak asked for suffering. Hashem said “… It is a good thing that you ask for ....” (ibid.)

I don’t ask for suffering. I ask for no suffering. I’m small and weak and ask to serve Hashem amid joy and nachas — that I not be tested. When suffering comes, I bite my lips so that I shouldn’t scream until the One Who sent them takes them away.

And meanwhile?

Meanwhile, the sighing gets louder, my tears spring forth, and my heart is heavy. Sometimes, they’re small, everyday difficulties — pebbles. Sometimes, huge boulders.

It will all end, all hardships, minor and major. We’ll be in that eternal place. We’ll see how our difficulties shine, how we’re uplifted because of them, and wish we’d had more.

To Nesanel’s mommy, and to all of us: Don’t wipe away your tears. Hashem will gather them one by one, radiant pearls, stored and waiting for you in His treasure house.

If only I would always remember not to kick against my difficulties, but to pray that they atone for my sins.

If only …

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