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A Matter Of Perspective

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A man once came to Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov with a question: “The Tal­mud tells us that one is to ‘bless G-d for the bad just as he blesses Him for the good.’ How is this humanly possible? Had our sages said that one must ac­cept without complaint or bitterness whatever is ordained from Heaven – this I can understand. I can even accept that, ultimately, everything is for the good, and that we are to bless and thank G-d also for the seemingly nega­tive developments in our lives. But how can a human being possibly react to what he experiences as bad in exactly the same way he responds to the perceptibly good? How can a person be as grateful for his troubles as he is for his joys?”

The Baal Shem Tov replied: “To find an answer to your question, you must go see my disciple, Reb Zusha of Anipoli. Only he can help you in this matter.”

Reb Zusha received his guest warmly, and invited him to make himself at home. The visitor decided to observe Reb Zusha’s conduct before posing his question, and before long concluded that his host truly exemplified the talmudic dictum which so puzzled him. He couldn’t think of anyone who suffered more hardship in his life than did Reb Zusha. A frightful pauper, there was never enough to eat in Reb Zusha’s home, and his family was beset with all sorts of afflictions and illnesses. Yet the man was forever good-humored and cheer­ful, and constantly expressing his gratitude to the Almighty for all His kindness.

But what was is his secret? How does he do it? The visitor finally decided to pose his question.

So one day, he said to his host: “I wish to ask you something. In fact, this is the purpose of my visit to you – our Rebbe advised me that you can provide me with the answer.”

“What is your question?” asked Reb Zusha.

The visitor repeated what he had asked of the Baal Shem Tov. “You know,” said Reb Zusha, “come to think of it, you raise a good point. But why did the Rebbe send you to me? How would I know? He should have sent you to someone who has experienced suffering…”

Told by the Rebbe, Tammuz 26 5722 (July 29 1962).

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber.

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