Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blaming people for their suffering

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]

In preparing a shiur for this coming Sunday, I came across this striking comment from Rav Shlomo Kluger, grandson of the more famous Rav Shlomo Kluger of Brody. It was included in a eulogy he gave for his father, just months after his mother had died as well. I think we have a lot to learn from it, particularly those of us who are apt to find reasons to explain why disasters happen:

When a person suffers tragedy which only afflicts him and his flesh, then anyone who has awe of Gd within him… is obligated to accept the Divine verdict as just and to bless for the bad as he does for the good. This is the path of a person who walks righteously, to suffer all ailments that come upon him with a calm spirit…

But if harm comes upon a person and upon others… then that person, who may even suffer more than others, may not calm himself and avoid feeling the pain of others… saying that he accepts it upon himself with love. This is a repugnant trait and an ugly path; one may not accept with love the ailment, pain and trouble of others! One who does so is subject to the curse of our sages, "When Israel is in pain and one of them separates from the community, two ministering angels place their hands on his head and say, 'So-and-so who separated from the community shall not see the comfort of the community.'"

It is as they said regarding Kfar Sakhnia… Once the Sages themselves testified that these people were fully righteous, how could they not have mourned for Jerusalem?! But this is what we have said: They, like all of Israel, felt the great, overarching damage from the destruction of the place of the house of our Gd, but because they were righteous they rallied themselves and restrained the storm in their spirit, they overcame their sorrow, and they accepted it all with love. This is why they were punished – for the pain and mourning of others, they ought to have torn the seal of their heart, to have mourned and poured forth tears!

אמנם כל זה יתכן באם יקרה לו לאדם פרטי אסון הנוגע רק אל עצמו ובשרו אז כל אשר יראת ה׳ נוססה בקרבו... מחויב להצדיק עליו את הדין ולברך על הרעה כמו על הטובה כי זה דרך כל איש ישר הולך לסבול במנוחת נפש כל התלאות הבאות עליו... אכן שוד ושבר אם יקרו ויאתיו על איש ועל בני אדם יחד... אז אין להאיש ההוא אף כי פגעי הזמן נחתו בו יתר מבזולתו להרגיע את רוחו לבל יצר לו בצרת אחרים... באמרו כי מקבל הוא על עצמו באהבה, זאת היא מדה מגונה ודרך מכוערה דאין לקבל באהבה מכאוב, צער וצרת אחרים, והעושה ככה חולה על ראשו קללת חכמנו ז״ל, "ת״ר בזמן שישראל שרויין בצער ופירש אחד מהם באים שני מלאכי השרת ומניחים ידיהם על ראשו, 'פלוני זה שפירש מן הצבור אל יראה בנחמת הצבור" וכמו שפי׳ מאמרם ז״ל באנשי כפר סכניא... אחרי שחכמינו ז״ל בעצמם מעידים עליהם שהיו צדיקים גמורים איך יתכן להיות שלא יתאבלו על ירושלים?! אך היא הדבר שדברנו דגם המה ככל בית ישראל הרגישו גודל השבר הכללי מחורבן מקום בית אלקינו רק מאחר דהיו צדיקים התאמצו לעצור ברוחם הסער והבליגו על יגונם וקבלו הכל באהבה ולכן נענשו דעל צער ואבל אחרים הי׳ להם לקרוע סגור לבם להתאבל ולשפוך כמים דמעות שליש

You can find the original here.


  1. Did I overestimate the value of this source? Odd not to see a single comment...

  2. It's possible that no one commented because the unsettling truth of his statement rings in our ears.

    Like you said in the post that links to this one, our search for meaning can be a sort of defense mechanism resulting in this attitude (the reason this happened is because "they" did A, B, C, or D, etc.).
    Another danger that this idea poses is the ability to miss the message of suffering entirely on our own personal level. This is one of the reasons the paytanim of the Kinnot bring their writings back around to instances of personal tragedy amidst the epic scope of anguish of these times.
    "Ma hu, af atah." is as applicable to "Imo anochi b'tzarah" as anything else...

  3. Shmuel-
    Agreed! And thanks for commenting.