I know of a man who has been ill for months. Now his business is going lost and he’s terribly depressed. Is there any hope for him?
And the answer is that it would have been much better if such a man would have prepared himself in the days when things were going well so that when a crunch would come, he’d be able to resist.
I’ll explain what it says in Koheles: ביום טובה היה בטוב – On a good day, be in a good mood; be happy. Now, isn’t this a superfluous thing to say? But he means like this: When things are going well, that’s when you should prepare. That’s when you should gather for the future all the confidence and happiness that you can. That’s the best time to understand the ways of Hashem and learn what life is all about; and if you do that then you might even understand someday that even misfortune is a great benefit.
Let’s say this man had learned in his younger days that Hakodosh Boruch Hu sometimes sends suffering on a man to make him better. Suffering humbles him and he cries out to Hashem as a result of his tzaros. And crying out to Hashem is a tremendous achievement because you’re becoming aware of Hashem. Before, when things were going well, you didn’t think about Him.
Now, this man who took the advice of Koheles, so he learned in his good days all of these ideas. It’s easier to learn about tzaros when you have no tzaros. When the tzaros already come, then it’s more difficult.
Now, when a man has learned in his youthful days, so then, when the misfortune comes upon him, he’s prepared for it. First of all he understands that it’s a preparation. All the yissurim are going to be to him an atonement for his sins. He’ll be able to enter the next world purified of his aveiros – they were already atoned by his sufferings.
Secondly, his arrogance – the ga’avah that almost everybody suffers – from was erased from his mind because the sick man has no arrogance.
Thirdly, all the foolish ambitions and hopes and desires of human beings – to become rich someday, to have pleasures and good times, who knows what else — it’s all smashed by the waves of misfortunes that come in life. And therefore, he learns that life is not merely for the purpose of seeking good times – he learns that life is for achievement. And some of the biggest achievement he gains when he has tzaros.
Now, that’s hard to say – people don’t like to listen to that. And so I’ll tell you again what I always say here – if you’re capable of utilizing happiness to become greater and greater, that’s the very best thing. But how many people do that? On the contrary people are spoiled by happiness. And so misfortune is an opportunity to gain in a short time that which you couldn’t gain before for many years.
And so, here’s a sick man whose business failing too – everything is dropping out from underneath him. So he shouldn’t think of suicide chas v’shalom; he shouldn’t think that life is not worth living. On the contrary, he should think, “I hope I could live longer this way because every day that I’m alive, I’m mechaper, I’m atoning. And I’m getting such a perfection of anavah, of humility. I’m becoming a broken soul.” And Hakodosh Boruch Hu loves the broken one. ואת דכא ושפל רוח – The Shechina rests on the broken man; on those who are low of spirit. A sick man who lies in bed, the Shechina is with him. שהשכינה שרויה למעלה ממטתו של חולה – The Shechina is over the head of a sick man. And so he’s coming closer to Hashem. Isn’t that worthwhile?
And so suffering in itself is a big achievement. It’s not so easy to tell that to a man now, but if he would listen it would be a benison, a blessing for him to hear these words. Because he would understand that when he gets the hard knocks of life, the hard knocks really are the blessings of life.
When a man is becoming rich and he’s having good times and he’s getting honor from all sides, these are the worst things that can happen to him – unless he has learned the secrets of שירו לו and זמרו לו. Yes – that’s the biggest thing! If a man learns to utilize happiness and he sings to Hashem that’s the greatest success. כל האומר שירה בעולם הזה – If you sing to Hashem in this world, זוכה ואומרה בעולם הבא – then you’ll sing in the World to Come too. So if you learn to be happy and to thank Hashem, to be grateful for everything, that’s the true success in this world.
You’re eating breakfast, ah! Did you ever think about eating breakfast? You have teeth to eat breakfast! And even if you have false teeth, at least you have something to eat breakfast with. And you’re eating breakfast! It means you have breakfast!
I was told about the Jews in Marmarush in Europe; they were so poor some of them, that never ate bread all week – only on Shabbos. During the week, they had cornbread. They only made borei pri haadama or shehakol during the week. Only on Shabbos they made hamotzi lechem min haaretz. To eat bread was a privilege. Wheat bread! Wheat bread was a privilege!
When I was in Europe, an old man told me that when he was a boy he didn’t have bread all the time. When he asked his mother at the table for another piece of bread, she couldn’t give him a second piece of bread. That’s how it used to be.
You have enough bread to eat? You have breakfast? And you’re able to eat? You have teeth? Did you ever stop and think how grateful you have to be to Hashem? You should sit at the table and you sing to Hashem at breakfast. You thank Him with a full heart – not merely birkat hamazon thatyou say like a tape recorder – no! You’re talking to someone! You say, “I thank You, Hashem. And I’m eating l’shem Shamayim. I’m eating in order to serve You and to sing to You.” If you’re able to do that, then you’re the biggest success.
But suppose a man is so sick he can’t eat – even then he’s not a failure. He thanks Hashem for his tzaros. חייב אדם לברך על הרעה כשם שמברך על הטובה. You have to give a bracha for misfortune because misfortune is a big stroke of good luck. You become now somebody beloved by Hashem. Hashem loves those who are suffering. השם יסעדנו על ערש דוי – Hashem will support him on his couch of pain. Hashem is with him. Why? Because Hashem loves people who are not proud. He loves people who are not arrogant; he loves those who are beaten down and feel low. He’s with them.
So you should utilize that and feel that this is a gift to me. On the contrary, I want to live long and longer because the more I live even in these circumstances, the better I’m becoming.
So therefore, I say once more to this man, on the contrary: Thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu for what He sent upon you. He’s making you more perfect than you could have ever become all the days of your life in the time of success and happiness.
TAPE # 713