2) All physical medicines are bitter, and the same is true in the case of the soul. The soul is healed through bitterness. You may have to overcome many obstacles and endure much suffering in order for your soul to be healed. With physical illnesses there are times when the body becomes so weak that the invalid cannot bear the bitterness of the medicines. The doctors despair of ever curing him and simply abandon him. Similarly, when a person falls under the influence of sin -- which is the sickness of the soul -- he may be unable to bear the bitterness of the remedy. There may seem to be no hope for him at all. But God is filled with love. When He sees that a person wants to return to Him but hasn't the strength to bear the bitter remedies made necessary by his own sins, then He takes pity and casts all his sins aside to save him excessive suffering. God sends him only as much as he can bear. Many people find that as soon as they try to return to God and follow the ways of the righteous, they suddenly encounter obstacles and hardship from every direction. At times it is impossible to bear the bitterness and overcome the barriers. There have been cases where people were so discouraged that they fell back into their old ways, God forbid. But a person who truly desires to draw closer to God should have faith that whatever the bitterness or suffering he has to endure, everything is being sent to him out of love. If the suffering were really in proportion to the magnitude of his sins it would have been far greater. He would have been much too weak to bear it and he would have been totally lost. But God in His love only sends as much bitterness and suffering as a person can bear. This much he must bear, and it is certainly within his power to endure it (27:7).
3) A person must be at peace with himself. It is no good if the different aspects of his character are in conflict with one another. He must also achieve harmony in his relationships with the outside world. Regardless of whether things are good or bad, he must always look for God in whatever happens to him. He should not allow himself to be thrown off course by anything. He should have faith that everything he experiences day by day is a favor and a blessing. This applies even to his hardships and suffering. He should believe and know that everything is for his ultimate good. The sole purpose of all of it is to draw him closer to God, if he truly desires it. The same basic principle applies in his relationship with friends. He should love them and be at peace with them regardless of their behavior, even if they make things difficult for him. He should always try to judge them in the sacle of merit and find good in them. He must interpret everything in a good light and remind himself that his friend's intentions were not as bad as he imagines. It is very important to strive for relations of love and peace with one's friends and with all Israel. The way to achieve this is through the Torah, which is called `peace', and through the Tzaddikim, who are also called `peace' (33:1).
4) When a person takes his hardship and suffering very badly it is because his power of understanding has been withdrawn and he fails to keep in mind their ultimate purpose, which is wholly good. If he were to concentrate on the true goal and purpose of life he would see that far from being bad these difficulties have a very positive purpose, because God's intention is only for good. It may be that He wishes to remind him to return to Him, or to scour his sins and cleanse him through this suffering. When he understands that the end purpose is wholly good, he can even come to rejoice in suffering. It is significant that people have a natural impulse to screw up their eyes tightly when they are in pain, as if they were trying to focus on something far away. It is as if by screwing up their eyes they were trying to focus on the true goal -- the World to Come, which is good and everlasting. The only way to concentrate on this goal is by averting one's eyes from the folly of this world completely (65:3).
5) A person who bears his suffering joyously will achieve new insights in his Torah studies, and when he does it is a sign that he bore his sufferings as he should (Ibid.).
6) A person must be long-suffering in all aspects of his character. He should never become angry or irritated over anything. No matter what he has to go through, he should bear everything patiently without being blown off course. He should let nothing make him lose his temper. He should endure everything with patience and simply do his own part to serve God with enthusiasm and joy. The way to achieve this level is through perfect faith, which is attained through the Land of Israel (155).
7) Something you should understand is that however acute your problems and difficulties may be, the very problems themselves always have an angle which in itself offers a solution. It is true that we always hope that God will turn to us in mercy and remove the problems completely. But if you think carefully about the problems themselves you will see that each one has a positive side to it too. If you always look carefully until you find this side of things, you will always be able to bear everything lovingly and nothing will ever disturb you. You will be able to use every experience as a means of drawing closer to God, and through this God will send you help (195).
8) In times of trouble and suffering, it is good to weep and cry before God. Through this we can gain Da'at, understanding, and draw God's providence upon ourselves. The pain and suffering will then be less because the main reason they are hard to bear is that one lacks adequate understanding. It is necessary to understand that everything is under the eye of God and is sent only for our own good (250).
9) The reason why people have to endure opposition and even persecution is to bring them closer to God through this very experience. The more persecution and hardship they suffer the more they must turn to God for relief, because there is no other solution. This is how persecution and suffering bring us closer to God (II, 13).
10) There is no one in the world who does not suffer in one way or another. People have all kinds of hardships and difficulties. It may be the problems of making a living, their health or domestic troubles with their wife and children and the other members of the household. Nobody can escape a certain amount of pain and hardship, because `man was born to struggle' (Job 5:7) `for his days are vexation and pain' (Ecclesiastes 2:23). The only way to escape is to seek refuge in God and His Torah. It takes great patience to bear what one has to go through in life. As our rabbis said, `The medicine for suffering is patience.' A wise man said: `For someone without a strategy, the best strategy is patience.' All the sages discuss this at great length and warn us that this world is full of suffering and anguish without end. Man was not created to derive pleasure from this world. His task is to labor in this world in order to earn the World to Come. This is why we have to bear everything with patience, in the faith that it is all for our good. `Everything that God does, He does for good.' We must take refuge in God and His Torah at all times and plead before Him for mercy. There is no other escape from the afflictions of the world except God, as it is written: `He is my refuge on my day of trouble.' Even the lowest of the low can still take refuge in God, because God is to be found in all places, as we have explained at length elsewhere. As soon as a person takes refuge in God, no matter what the experience, it will turn out for good, and the good will be truly enduring (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 308).
ADVICE from RABBI NACHMAN
Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman's practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006