Why Me?! The 7 Reasons for Why People Suffer

The Stolen Bicycle

I had a nice bike for several years. I bought it at Toys-R-Us. Disc-brakes, shocks and on sale.

Just the other day someone remarked that my bicycle was missing. I said, why wouldn’t they steal the other bikes. They remarked that the other bikes were registered with the police.

I Just started re-using it after a long hiatus. Too bad I was getting into shape and it was convenient.

Why does G-d send Difficulties?

Why me? Why me? 🙂

G-d has reasons for every good thing or thing that looks bad that happens to us.

If you want to understand the way the world works or why good things happen to bad people or why bad things happen to good people remember this:

G-d conducts the world with Middah Keneged Middah. Measure for measure. You do good – you receive good and vice versa.

But we are not all great at recognizing it. I sometimes attribute my sufferings to certain of my failings. And it comes out pretty accurately. Sometimes the sufferings are direct or indirect. Meaning our suffering may attain the person directly or may be due to the sufferings of others around us. (Some, on higher levels of Torah spirituality, may ask if the sufferings of the world are due to their failings)

Why is G-d Punishing Me?

A woman recently called me. She told me she was having many difficulties – no job. her daughter was doing things that pained her. she did not have an apartment. I consoled her and explained that G-d loves each person. G-d just wants us to live a better life. So He sometimes sends “corrections” – situations that will eventually lead a person to live a much better life than they are presently living. A person has to be wise enough to listen to G-d’s daily messages.

The World Made for You

If the world is made for each person – the world might suffer for someone’s failings. What are failings? I found out the hard way that failings are doing things that are contrary to Torah.

Knowing What is Right & What is Wrong helps one to Remove Sufferings

Unfortunately – i discovered i had many failings. But I was ready to correct them slowly but surely. I am still working on my failings – but I am a big step ahead than I was before. Why? Because I recognize what is right and what is wrong. If one does not recognize this – it is more difficult for one to correct themselves. It is a bit like shooting in the Dark.

Each Jew is responsible for one another. If one Jew suffers the others suffer. If a Jew rejoices another does too. If one does good the others benefit. And vice versa.

When i was a teenager – I experienced sufferings. My sufferings became my teachers. I learned from experience the reasons for suffering. It helped me to cope through the hard times.

The first question one should ask – if G-d surely loves us – why does he allow suffering. We will avoid the philosophical discussions – but below are some basic reasons.

So back to my bicycle – why me?

There are 7 basic reasons for suffering.

  1. G-d is settling accounts for what a person did in the past. If we steal from others – others might steal from us. It could be a past deed from this life or a past deed from a previous life. When one repents sincerely to Hash-m the bad deeds are erased. The solution : Don’t do the same deed that was done to you. Do Teshuva / Repent.
  2. G-d is sending a message to the person to repent. At times a person is totally off-track. Off track – meaning that their values are out of sync with the values of Torah. G-d is sending them a message to get back on track for their own good. The solution: Learn what the Torah expects of a Jew or a Gentile and get back on track.
  3. G-d wants you to Pray to Him – At times a person prays to G-d but is not answered. G-d loves a person and desires his or her prayers. So don’t give up praying. G-d eventually will answer.
  4. G-d wants you to develop a relationship with him. G-d wants a relationship with His Children. Many a time people have a very good life. Children. A good job. A nice family. All the food and amenities they need, but they ignore or some even “diddain” G-d or the Jewish people. Why? Because they are happy with there lot – no need for Torah or spirituality – they think. So G-d may send a wake up call – to awaken them from their slumber through the medium of suffering. Then the person turns to G-d for help and prays for respite from suffering. Then they develop a relationship with Him. A solution to this is to always be thankful for the good.
    We have a synagogue that is next to a playground. Many pass by ignoring our synagogue. I see the beautiful children and all the good the families have. I ask myself – does it not enter these people’s minds to come in to say thanks to G-d for at least some of the good they have.
  5. G-d is testing person to see if they will remain faithful to Him even in trying circumstances – a trying circumstance is not necessarily suffering. It could be doing the right thing when your friends or the society are going against the morality of the Torah. That is a trying circumstance.

  6. G-d wants you to grow. A person sometimes has a trying circumstance. G-d might want to build you. If you think about it G-d knows what is best for the spiritual growth of the person. Thus he puts them in certain situations so that after surmounting the difficulty – they will become a better wants a person to define himself or herself. When a person dies – they remain the same forever. What they became is how they will remain for eternity.
  7. G-d wants you to put in More effort – I know someone who complains – Why Me? Why did I not get a good job? Why did I not find a good match? All kinds of “why me?” statements. I ask him – did you try to apply for a job? No. Did you try your best to get a job? no.I told him – the first step is to make the proper effort and pray to Hash-m for a Job. The way that G-d conducts the world is that one makes an effort to achieve their goals. But the fact that the goals are achieved are ultimately in the hands of G-d. But the minimum requirement is to make a concerted, serious effort towards your goal.

G-d Sends Good in All Situations

G-d does everything for the Good of a person. A person just has to be creative enough to find a reason why whatever happens to them is good. Like the man who stepped on a rusty nail before a business trip – in which the Doctor forbade him to travel.In the end the ship that he was scheduled to travel upon sank.

Developing a Positive Attitude

Look into the reasons for difficulty and you will find a positive reason for each difficulty and challenge. Like the ones above. Many come to the conclusion that certain situations are good and certain are bad. That is inaccurate. All situations are sent by G-d. All situations that G-d creates are good. They might be difficult situations – but their must be good in those situations because G-d / Hash-m is all good. The person with a positive attitude tries to find good in all situations whether they are pleasing situations or difficult situations.

Cherishing Suffering – a higher level for the Elite

The Torah does not condone provoking self-suffering. Hash-m should save us from it. King David “cherished” suffering. Why? Because he felt that when he was pained – he felt a closer connection to G-d. G-d is close to those with broken heart and many feel this. When I look back at my suffering as a teen – I remember the closeness I felt.

Appreciating the Good of Life

A person living a Torah life appreciates the good that G-d / Hash-m gives on a daily basis. We say thanks. We appreciate. We have a closer relationship with G-d. We live more wholesome lives and better achieve our purpose in the end.

Living & Dying with Purpose

Many think dying is the worst that could happen to a person. Everybody dies. Truth is that that is not the worst thing. Dying without a purpose is the worse thing. Torah gives a person purpose – in dying and in living. Purpose for every act and purpose for every world of Torah studied. It turns a life following the pursuit of vain pleasure to a life that is full of purposeful pleasures. Allowing a person to maximize their potential in life and achieve their purpose in the end.

Every Pleasure has a Permitted Substitute

For all pleasures in the world that are forbidden in the Torah there is a substitute permitted pleasure. Examples abound. The Torah forbids Jews from eating pork and thus bacon. There is a kosher substitute made of Turkey that tastes like bacon. Shrimp and shellfish are forbidden to Jews. Kosher substitutes exist.

Pleasure with Purpose vs. Vain Pleasures

If you look at each prohibition – you will find a substitute. Each prohibition in Torah is usually prohibits pleasure without purpose. The Torah gives each a substitute that makes it a pleasure with purpose.

Thus every act that a person does can be a meaningful act through following Torah. Jews – their 613 commandments and Gentiles their 7 commandments.

Preparation for Rosh Hashana

We are approaching the New Jewish Year. Now is the time to get on track to see how we can transform our average lives into more purposeful and meaningful lives. That is one of the goals of Teshuva (literally Returning in Hebrew) / Repentance in Judaism – to return to a life of purpose.

Choose Life

The Torah itself tells you straight out saying “Choose Life!” What is life? Pleasure with purpose – for the sake of serving G-d. Every act done to serve G-d becomes a purposeful act and one lives (and eventually dies) with a purpose.

We should all live long purposeful lives. Amen.

 

 

The Eye of the Earth – a Better Attitude in Life

In Parashat / the Torah Reading of Balak (Bamidbar / Numbers 22:2 – 25:8), Balak, the King of the nation of Moav – afraid of the Jews for he saw what they did to the Amorites – commissions a Gentile Prophet Bilaam to Curse the Nation. Balak describes the Jews as having covered the Eye of the Earth (22:5).

One commentator, Rabbi Elimelech Bidderman, explains the concept of covering the eye of the world. He says that the Jews have a different perspective than the world view. The general view of the world is that everything happens by chance or as a result of cause and effect. A man loses money – he was not careful to update his store merchandise. A woman loses a job – she was too talkative at work. These might be the symptoms – but the ultimate reason why things happen is because Hash-m / G-d wants them to happen.

G-d does everything for the good. If one takes that as an attitude – his depression can disappear. Maybe the man lost his money because G-d saw he was spending too much time working and not spending time with the family or learning Torah and He wanted him to find a more lucrative enterprise in which he would work less making more money allowing him to spend more time with the family.

Perhaps the woman lost the Job, so that she could be hired by another firm that is closer to her home or that would give her more responsibilities.

A man without the attitude that G-d does everything and everything He does is for the good – might take up drinking, or become a tyrant at home, or become depressed. With the attitude that G-d does everything good – the man will get up on his feet and look for another business. He will pray to Hash-m to help him find him the right way in life and for making a living and take action.

The woman – who lost her job might start having negative feelings towards her boss or towards her former co-workers that did not “stick-up for her”. She remains bitter towards the old staff. Even when she gets a new job she remains bitter towards them. But looking at the big picture G-d helped her to lose one job and find a much better position. So what’s the reason for the grudge? It wasn’t the co-workers it was G-d – doing it for her Good. The co-workers might have tried to help her – but she only sees the negative.

In Judaism we have laws of Lashon HaRa / Derogatory speech. We should not speak badly of a fellow Jew – without direct constructive purpose. Many a time a person speaks badly about others because they failed to see the hand of G-d. They fail to see the good in the “bad” that happened to them. Looking at the long term picture one can see the good that happened – so why blame others for your suffering. It is possible that much good came out from the difficult situation that one was in and overcame.

Look at the good that came as a result of a negative looking situation, and you won’t have to blame others. We’ll live life with a positive attitude – rather than with a grudge in our hearts.

Selective Forgetting – Overcoming Difficulties of Your Past

I had a nice childhood. I remember spending summers in Silver Spring, Maryland with my cousins. We went to a camp called Candy Cane City. It was fun.

I was a kid in the mid-70’s. People sported fros and big owl glasses, bell-bottoms and those gaudy suits and ties. I remember taking my cousin’s bike – going on a bike adventure by myself in the streets of Washington, DC. My cousin and I would take long Shabbat walks and for some reason we would end up in a public parking lot – where we could see a nice view of the area. I remember the Evil Knievel Toy Motorcycle and those Cars that you’d pull the belt that would spin the car-wheel and letting it jump over my makeshift ramps – watching them fly.

But like all – I also had my share of difficulties. I can’t say that my challenges were as great as other people’s but I did have times of Joy and times of suffering.

I don’t know if my fun childhood – made it more difficult to cope with my more difficult teenage years. I had great teen years – but I was introduced to this concept I knew little of – called suffering.

Positive Suffering

In a sense suffering is painful. But it is also can be seen in the positive. It cleanses the imperfections in one’s comportment and one’s blemishes in their soul. I became more introspective. My suffering made me I realize that hurting others to make the class laugh was wrong. I learned of other comportments to change & character traits and deeds I had to improve. I resolved to become a better person. Anybody can start over and wipe the slate clean.

Looking back, I took the life lessons – to do good and not hurt others – but I left the pain behind.

Some people take the pain with them and forget the lessons.

Others take both.

Suffering & Closeness to G-d

Suffering makes it easier to become closer to Hash-m. We cry out sincerely to Him when in the depths. When everything is going well – have money, children, nice apartment and car – unfortunately many forget G-d. And then to those he loves – he may send a wakeup call. Some want pain to help motivate themselves to become Closer to G-d and to do Mitzvot. King David wanted suffering to help him feel closer to G-d. A high level – not for everyone.

Looking at the Past and Future – Kosher

Rabbi Yosef Sitruk, z”l – former French Chief Rabbi – said that The signs of a Kosher animal represent two ways of looking at the world. Two kosher signs for an animal is that it chews its cud and has split hooves. Chewing Cud – represents bringing back past. Jews from middle-eastern countries – Sephardim – usually would say how the past were the “good old days” and bring them up again and again. He used the term Yahsra – loosely translated as “what a difference between then and now – accompanied by a melancholy feeling of the glorious past that is gone.”

He said that the split hooves – represent an attitude of always trying to innovate and go ahead. He compared that attitude to the Jews from occidental countries – the Ashkenazim – that rely more on innovations in teaching, psychology, technology, etc.

So chewing old memories could be good. Provided you remember the good. But dwelling on past pain can be counterproductive if it stifles you or stops you from being productive or it causes you depression. Let it go.

Let it go.

You have to move on in life.

Reasons why G-d Sends Suffering

G-d sometimes sends difficulties for a person to overcome and become a stronger better individual. He sends difficulties so a person will become closer to Him. Like a parent who withholds allowance from a child who’s living away from home – in order that the child call his parents sometimes.

G-d only does Good – finding the reason for your Suffering

If G-d does only good – how can I understand my suffering? Apparently if you think hard enough or think of past difficulties – you can find a lesson to learn. Perhaps something you gained, something you improved. A worse situation that you avoided by encountering difficulty. Be creative. Perhaps you became more spiritual, closer to G-d? Thousand of reasons. Choose one that fits you best.

Choose Your Memories

You choose which memories to bring to the forefront. It could be you enjoying life or you in pain. You choose. You choose what to think about. You choose what to dwell upon.

When I just got married an uncle of my wife said – remember this period of the first year – where everything is special. Put it in a bottle. When you encounter difficulties – open the bottle and draw from it.

In Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers two Mishnayot talk about a person forgetting – one about forgetting sin and one about forgetting his Torah learning. It says:

Torah Study & Toil to Forget Sin
Rabban Gamliel son of Rabbi son of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi says: – “Great is the study of Torah with Derekh Eretz [lit. “the way of the world” either – with livelihood or with proper conduct] – for with the toil in both [temptation to] sin is forgotten. And all Torah that is without Derekh Eretz – in the end it will be nullified & causes sin. And whoever toils with the community, let them toil with them for the sake of Heaven – for the merit of their fathers helps them – & their righteousness will stand forever. And you [who toil with the community] I will consider it as if you yourself achieved it. (Avot 2:2)

Forgetting Torah

Rabbi Dostai, son of Rabbi Yannai in the name of Rabbi Meir, says: Whoever forgets one thing from his [Torah] learning – Scripture, considers as if he is liable for his life. As it says: “Rather guard yourself & guard your soul very well lest you forget the things that your eyes saw.” (Devarim/ Deut. 4:9) One might think that this even applies if his studies were too difficult. The Torah [thus] teaches “Lest you remove it from your hearts” (ibid) – behold he is not liable for his life until it [the learning] settles within him & then he removes it from his heart. [intentionally] (Avot 3:8)

Putting the Subject matter of the Mishna’s aside – we learn two things about forgetting – One – that one can forget sin by being involved in Torah, community and work. Forgetting pain can also be forgotten such. Occupy yourself with the positive. With Mitzvot. Note the that both mentioned  – Torah Study and Working are Mitzvot / Commandments from Torah. Learning Torah is a Mitzvah (Jews learn Torah, Gentiles Learn about Noahide Laws). Working is a Mitzvah – the Mitzvah of Settling the world. By occupying yourself with both you forget your sins – but you also forget your pain.

Temporary vs. Long Term Relief from Suffering 

Apparently these are the best things a person can use to forget. Once a person said he got over depression by watching comedies. I tried. It didn’t work.

A Cause of Suffering

Apparently – one source of depression comes from the soul. You are really your soul. It is possible that depression is linked to the fact that a person is not producing Mitzvot. Thus the soul is depressed.

When I was depressed, I used to do the same. Watch comedies. For me – it was like “Chinese Food” – you eat it, but right after you are hungry. I would watch to pass time but right after I still felt depressed.

Learning Enlightens the Soul

Learning Torah enlightens the soul. So the soul’s sadness is lifted. It is a Mitzvah to serve Hashem with happiness – so sadness is also a domain of the Yetzer HaRah / the evil inclination. He does not want you to be happy. His job is to keep you down so that you don’t produce Mitzvot, do kindness. He provides for you a negative attitude that makes you unproductive of Mitzvot. That is his job. Your job is to bear away from His suggestions. To choose not to become depressed. To speak it out with friends or family to resolve your difficulties – so you can become productive in achieving your potential for doing good.

Happiness – through torah – may not come overnight – it takes time of consistent work – little strides. Step by step. Slow and steady wins the race.

Choose Happiness

You choose – to be happy. You choose to seek help to get out of depression. Your only Job is to say “G-d please help me to get out of this difficult situation of …..(fill in the blank)” Make an effort to get out of it. And choose the help once it comes.

You choose to banish that thought of “I am a nothing” and replace it with “I am a special person. No one in the world is like me.” (see the “You are special card”). Think “I have great potential.” Think “People love me!” Think “G-d loves me.” instead of all those other negative thoughts racing through your mind.

Be strict – and don’t let bad thoughts come in. If they do say “Stop!” You’re not always in control of the thoughts that enter your mind – but you choose to dwell upon them. So stop the bad thoughts and replace them will positive thoughts.

Choose to Be Helped

A person must choose to be helped. There is a Joke.

Once a person was received a flood warning text. He said “G-d will help me.” He stayed in his home. The flood waters reached his street. The police came – “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.” The flood waters got higher. Then – a boat passed by – they asked “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.” The waters went higher. A helicopter came – “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.”

Ultimately – he drowned. He came before G-d and asked – “G-d why didn’t you save me?” G-d replied “I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter – what more did you want?”

We choose to seek help. We choose what to dwell upon. We choose our attitude. We choose to pray to Hash-m for help. We choose to be helped when help arrives.

The Second mishna teaches us about intentional and unintentional forgetting. How does one intentionally forget. Apparently one can choose to forget. When the subject matter comes up in their mind – they push it aside with other thoughts – intentionally. This intentional forgetting can be used for the good – forgetting sad events in your life.

Forgetting – a Gift from G-d

It says that forgetting is a gift from G-d. If one would remember so perfectly – that the memories of difficulties would be clear in his mind – his or her life would be much more difficult to bear. After one year a person forgets partially the passing of a dear one. After seven years a person – feels as if the person wasn’t here. Another kindness of Hash-m to help you better cope and get on in life.

 What you think is what you are. Think negative – you’ll be negative. Think positive – you’ll be positive. It’s in your hands to choose.

Think Kindness

Even better is to think of doing kindness with others. You become a kinder person. A Jew who thinks of doing a Mitzvah with others – gets that mitzvah. You think you want to feed every single worthy person in the world, you will be attributed that Mitzvah. You think you want to teach Torah to everyone – you get that Mitzvah. You think to do a Mitzvah and was unable to do it – you get that Mitzvah.

Reasons Not to Think of Doing Bad to Others

A motivation to not think about doing badly to others – is that some people – when they think of doing evil to others – even though they do not do it in the end – the evil they wanted to do are attributed to them as if they actually did it.

We say in the Hagadah of Pesach – “An Aramean (Lavan – the father of Rachel & Leah – who were married to Yaakov / Jacob) destroyed my Father (Yaakov) and we went down to Egypt.” Lavan did not kill Yaakov. He thought seriously about doing it. But he didn’t kill him. But it was attributed to him that he did kill Yaakov – meaning it will be on his record – when he gets to heaven that he actually killed.

Forget the Bad – Forget the Hate – Forget the Grudges

In Torah – we do not hold a grudge. If someone did bad to you – confront them and tell to explain their bad comportment. Let them ask forgiveness or you ask and the story is over.

Ask yourself – this grudge that you’ve been holding against a brother, parent, child – worth it? Did you gain anything from it all these years. Holding a grudge can fall into the category of sinat hinam – gratuitous hatred – also a transgression of veAhavta Le’reacha – you shall love your fellow Jew.

Putting all that aside – was the bad blood worth it all these years?

Forgive – forget – get over it. Obviously, you don’t have to put yourself into a situation in which they would take advantage of you again or bring them to a Beit Din / Jewish court of law to settle the financial affairs – but one is not related to the other. If you are too shy to approach your family member or friend and you want to make peace – You can ask a competent Orthodox rabbi to be an intermediary to approach the person.

Speak No Evil

The secret to happiness is to choose what you think about. It’s possible this is one of the reasons of the many laws against speaking Lashon HaRa’ – Evil Speech – speaking badly of others regardless of it being true or not. You speak badly – you think negatively. You cause others to think negatively. We are to control our thoughts, speech and actions. Speech and actions start from thought. If you nip the problem in the bud – you resolve many difficulties. Don’t think negatively – you won’t speak negatively and you won’t do the negative.

Also this will Pass

A manic-depressive asked King Solomon for a cure to his concern. At times he was ecstatic. At times he was depressed. He gave him a ring that said – “Also this will pass.” He was cured. When he was sad – he thought – “also this will pass” and he would cheer up. When he was ecstatic – he would think – “also this will pass” –  and he would calm down.

Your happiness is dependent upon you thoughts.

Think positive!

Problems Causing You Worry? or Worry Causing You Problems?

G-d loves his creatures. He doesn’t even want the death of the wicked. He wants them to correct their ways and He will accept them.

The power of Teshuva / repentance is such – that anyone can be forgiven for their sins if they return sincerely to the good and just path of the Torah. G-d is so gracious that He would forgive anyone that sincerely repents. Anyone. Yes – You, Me and the Average Joes.

So Magnanimous is G-d – His Mercy is unimaginable.  I heard from a rabbi – that even if Hitler would have sincerely repented for all the sins he committed – he would have been forgiven. Yet, now that he did not – he ranks among the most evil men of all times.

G-d is our father. He wants us to have a relationship with Him. If we place our worries upon Him, He will take care of them. Say “G-d, I have a great test or an important interview- I will do my best to do well, but You take care of the rest. I won’t worry because you control all.” Don’t Worry – Have faith in Hash-m and he will handle the rest.

One who worries is basically lacking a bit of faith. He thinks that things don’t happen for the best. If he integrated the fact that G-d controls all and does everything for the best – there is no need to worry. After you put in your best effort, act prudently, take your precautions and pray to Hash-m – put your concerns in the hands of G-d – let Him take care of the rest.

If you do worry – you think that man is in control. If a person does worry sometimes G-d says let the worrier take care of the situation. And lets the “dice roll” for what happens. At times one’s worry is the cause of his problems. If a person worries – that which they worry about – might come to fruition due to their worry. Yes – a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Better to put your fate in the Hand’s of G-d. Don’t put your fate in the hands of men. Understand that only good will occur and it will. Remember G-d is Good. He is our Father. He wants the best for us. No need to worry.

Believe it will be good and it will be good.

Don’t worry be happy.