Thursday, February 28, 2013

the suffering that only Hashem sees

The Ksav Sofer quotes a Midrash (Devarim Rabbah 4) that teaches that Moshe asked Hashem that when He sees his children suffering, even if no one is crying out for His mercy, He should still respond.  There are two questions that beg asking: 1) Why the circumlocution of “when **you see** your children suffering” – why not say directly, “when the Jewish people **are** suffering?”  2) How could there be a situation of suffering with no one asking Hashem for mercy – is it conceivable that Klal Yisrael will be in trouble and no one will turn to Hashem in tefilah?!

No matter how bad things get, there is a process of accommodation and acculturation that occurs and people get used to it.  We say in Eicah and kinos, “Zechor Hashem meh haya lanu,” Hashem, remember what we had.  The Midrash comments that we ask Hashem to remember because we are prone to forget.  Can you imagine the river of tears that must have been spilled after the first Tisha b’Av?  No matter how much we try to absorb the meaning of what it means to live in galus, it’s just not the same feeling 2000 years later.  We've gotten used to the state of churban and we've forgotten.  But for Hashem, it’s like it just happened – he never forgets, he never gets used to it.  The pain is just as real for Him now as it was for us on that first day of exile.

Samcheinu k’ymos inisanu, k’shnos ra’inu ra’ah”(Tehillim (90:15) – we want to be gladdened one day just as we now experience days of suffering.  Certainly the plain meaning of the pasuk is that our joy of geulah should be proportional (either quantitatively or qualitatively) to the sadness which we experienc in galus.  But the Ksav Sofer adds another dimension: the pasuk means that our joy should not be the joy of overcoming galus as we see perceive it now, after we have gotten used to it.  What's the big simcha in that?  Our joy should be the joy of overcoming galus, “k’ymos inisanu,” when we still felt the pain and it bothered us.

This is what the Midrash means when it refers to the suffering “which Hashem sees.”  Our senses are dulled, our collective communal memory is hazy, and we no longer even feel the loss of the glory of Knesses Yisrael.   We have grown used to things as they are; we don't see the tragedy of our own plight.  Hashem, however,  still sees just how badly we have fallen.  Hashem will respond even if we are so blinded to our condition that we do not even know enough to daven for our own relief.  

The Midrash writes that when we return to Eretz Yisrael we will shed tears like on the day the brothers re-united with Yosef.  When the brothers first realized the full import of what they had done, they mourned.  Undoubtedly, they wanted their brother back and felt tortuous pain at his loss.  But after 22 years, was that pain still the same; was it even there at all?  It was only when Yosef revealed himself that suddenly those memories came flooding back and the brothers once again cried, reliving and realizing their sorrow even as they experienced its amelioration.  When we return to Eretz Yisrael it will be with similar tears, as our senses re-awaken to all the forgotten pains and sorrow of galus, even as those very pains are wiped away in the joy of geulah.

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