Parshas Toldos 2018: Thank G-d For Suffering
Updated: Jan 31, 2020
These several parshios (Torah portions) deal with a real perspective-setter as they begin quite morbidly with the aging and passing of our forefathers or mothers. This week, Yitzchak (Isaac) reached the end of his life. When the time came, he summoned his two children and blessed them both.
“When Yitzchak became old, his eyes dimmed from seeing.” (Genesis 27:1).
The Medrish Rabbah teaches us, Yitzchak davened to Hashem for physical ailments at the end of his life. His request came from the following logic; if a man dies without suffering the attribute of strict judgement will oppose him. But if Hashem would bring suffering upon man, then the attribute of strict justice will not be stretched against him. When a person sins in this world, he blemishes his neshamah (soul). Once the soul returns after one passes, the neshamah needs to be cleansed of all its imperfections. Unfortunately this cleaning process is hell. Hashem naturally gives a person his whole lifetime to do good and rectify his sins, however, Yitzchak’s concern was people will die with a full term of suffering waiting for them. So he davened that Hashem should issue some suffering now to lessen the suffering later.
Hashem not only granted Yitzchak his wish but commended him. Hashem told Yitzchak he had requested a very nobel thing. Until this parsha, (from the beginning of creation to Yitzchak) no man suffered in any form of disease, ailments, or physical signs of deterioration prior to his passing. Yitzchak was the first, as it says, “When Yitzchak became old, his eyes dimmed from seeing.” (Genesis 27:1).
Many gedolim (Torah giants) have been known for their incredible strength in this area. As they aged, they became ill and had much difficulty functioning properly. Yet, they understood that the minimal suffering in this world is worth it and they were able to accept their discomfort with happiness.
There’s a story about Rabbi Mordechai Progemanski who once became very sick. The sickness affected him terribly, he even lost his vision. The doctors wanted to administer morphine to ease the his pain. However, Rabbi Mordechai refused. People have said that they heard the Rabbi imploring Hashem, beginning Him to increase his suffering and help him bare it.
Our father Yitzchak developed this understanding of pain and suffering in life so, we too, have this as a genetic inheritance. It’s important to understand so we can actually appreciate even the greatest challenges we face. We are taught that if we can receive punishment or suffering in this world, it eventually ends but if we have to wait until after our demise to receive punishment, it endures.
With this in mind we can better understand how we can be sincere when we say in the face of our own great pain and suffering that “Hashem does only good.” Yitzchak Avinu brings into this Shabbos with an essential lesson and a refreshed understanding that everything Hashem brings us - Gamzu La’tova “this too is for the good!”
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters