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Two Sages Debate the Meaning of Pain--and G-d's Verdict

1 hr 11 min

Class Summary:

In the opening of this week’s portion, Vaeira, G-d tells Moses: "I, too, have heard the moans of the children of Israel, from the slavery that the Egyptians are enslaving them, and I remembered My covenant.”

The verse is raddled with questions. First, what is the meaning of the words “And I too have heard the moans?” Second, the words “from the slavery that the Egyptians are enslaving them” seem superfluous. Finally, we are puzzled by the final words of the verse, “and I remembered My covenant,” as though to say that if not for the outcry of the children of Israel He might have not remembered His covenant.

Today we will share an incredible insight by one of the greatest Kabbalists of all time, Rabbi Shimson of Astropole, murdered by the Cossacks in 1648.

Rabbi Yochanan, compiler of the Jerusalem Talmud, was one of the greatest teachers of the Talmudic era. Living an extraordinary long life, from 180 CE till 279 CE, one century after the destruction of the second Temple, his teachings are studied in depth to this very day, His life was also filled with enormous pain. His father died before his birth, and he was orphaned of his mother soon after. Tragedy would mark the rest of his years with the death of each of his ten children in his lifetime. And yet this great man never lost his equilibrium, his faith, optimism, joy and focus. He was a master, a teacher, a leader and a spiritual giant.

In one place in Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan discussed pain. And when such a man discusses pain, we ought to listen. Pain, he taught, elevated a human being to a unique plateau. People in pain live in a different realm. Their perspectives on life, death, love, meaning, truth, faith profess a depth and sensitivity of different proportions than the rest of humanity.

Yet, while Reb Yochanan compared pain to the tooth and eye of the slave, Reish Lakish compared pain to salt. The disagreement is profound. Pain transforms people forever. It takes them to places the rest of us never visit. But does this demand of them that the pain has a purpose? This was the great argument between the two Talmudic sages. In Egypt, G-d embraced one opinion. 

We often look at our generation and wonder how can Moshiach come to our generation, seemingly so lowly and distant? We fail to recognize, the incredible holiness embedded in our people as a result of all the pain our people has endured. We are ready and worthy of Moshiach.

Please leave your comment below!

  • M

    Mendel -6 years ago

    The following letter is taken from a pamphlet written by the Tzaddik, Rebbe Shimshon from Ostropoli

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  • Y

    Yosef -7 years ago

    So what happens when 2 (or more) Jews with opposing views, who have suffered, are interacting with each other; who takes off their shoes for who?... Maybe best for them to keep away from each other

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  • M

    Mary_Linda -8 years ago

    Wow - will have to hear this one again b"n; Blew me away!

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  • YG

    Yochanan Gordon -8 years ago

    Great Shiur as usual! I saw a similar reading of the verse in the sefarim of Rav Yitzchak Vorka and the Apter Rav.

    Vorka writes: I also have heard the cries of the Bnei Yisrael as a
    result of the pain they have been subjected to by the Egyptians. He
    learns 'Mitzrayim Maavidim osam' that G-d hears the cries of the people
    whose service of Him is only expressed when they are met with pain and

    The Apter Rav writes: How great are the Jewish
    people who cry out as a result of the fact that they only serve G-d when
    he presents them with pain and challenges. Which is to say that the
    cries are not duwe to the pain but to the fact that thwey only serve G-d
    when they are in pain.

    But The last diyuk by the
    Ostropoler, in proving that the Aibershter is being machria in the
    machlokes like Reish Lakish is truly legendary.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • January 3, 2016
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  • 22 Tevet 5776
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Leilu Nishmat Reb Eliyahu Tzion ben Reb Chananya Niasoff ז"ל
And in the merit of our partner in Torah Yigal Yisroel ben Sofia

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