Why We Suffer & How to End It (Shemoth)
Parsha Shemoth: Shemoth/Exodus 1:1 - 6:1
"And יהוה said, “I have indeed seen the oppression of My people who are in Mitsrayim, and have heard their cry because of their slave-drivers, for I know their sorrows." (Shem/Ex. 3:7)
YAHUAH saw. He heard. He knew.
His people were suffering, and He knew it. He felt it.
“In all their distress He was distressed,” (Yesh/Is. 63:9)
“When he calls on Me, I answer him; I am with him in distress;" (Teh/Ps. 91:15)
YAHUAH feels the pain and suffering we endure. He knows what we’re going through. He knows what we’re dealing with, and our pain is His pain.
Sometimes, it may seem like we’re all alone in our struggles. No matter how much we pray, it feels like YAH doesn't hear. It feels like our prayers are falling on deaf ears.
Can it really be that the Elohim who knows all and sees all doesn’t know or doesn’t care or doesn’t see? He doesn’t hear?
Surely, He does. And it pains Him to see us suffer. So, why does it continue?
Because it’s necessary. Somehow, in some way, what we’re going through is necessary. Somehow, it’s for our own good.
The Hebrews' Mistake
Yisrael endured much agony at the hands of the Egyptians. Pharaoh had forgotten Yoseph and enslaved the Hebrews.
Pharaoh forgot Yoseph because Yisrael forgot Yoseph.
Yoseph, his brothers, and all that generation died. The Hebrews began to assimilate. They didn’t keep themselves as a separate, righteous nation as the previous generation.
They started taking on Egyptian ways, worshiping their idols and duplicating their lifestyle. They basked in the wealth of Egyptian life, forgetting the ways of their fathers.
These people didn’t look like Yoseph’s people. They didn’t look like Yoseph, and Pharaoh “forgot” who Yoseph was.
Then came the slavery and hard labor.
Suffering the Consequences
Many times (not all the time, but many times) our suffering is due to our own sins. Whether intentional or unintentional, nevertheless, we sinned.
Even though we may try, we don’t always ask forgiveness for every sin we commit. We ask forgiveness for “all my sins,” but we don’t enumerate each one. Therefore, we don’t always do clear teshuvah (repentance) for each thing we’ve done wrong.
Truth be told, even if we do seek forgiveness, the consequences are not always totally wiped out. Sometimes, in YAH’s great compassion, the consequences are lessened, but they are not always completely done away with.
YAHUAH is righteous. If we’re deserving of punishment, then we’ll get it - unless our repentance is altogether complete and perfect. Otherwise, our repentance will mitigate the consequences so that we receive less (sometimes way less) than what we really deserve.
The consequences are not completely wiped out because they instruct and teach us. They’re discipline, guiding us in the way we should go.
A parent doesn’t enjoy disciplining his/her child but knows it’s necessary. If the parent doesn't discipline, then the child will become wayward and do even worse things. The child will think the wrong s/he did was okay and will continue doing it if there are no consequences. Discipline is necessary even if it causes the child pain.
So too with YAHUAH. He does not enjoy disciplining His children. It pains Him. But it is necessary. If there were no consequences, who would change and become righteous? Very few.
The Hebrews turned from YAHUAH to follow the Egyptians, and they suffered the consequences of slavery and hard labor. Their suffering was a means of discipline to correct their ways and turn them back to YAH.
The suffering we go through disciplines, and it also atones. When the suffering is over, then the sin is removed from our being.
A person has a rotten tooth. How did it rot? He didn’t do what he was supposed to do. He didn’t brush and floss as he knew he should. He ate too many sugary foods and drank too much acidic soda knowing it was bad for his teeth. Furthermore, he didn’t nip it in the bud. At the first onset of trouble, he didn’t take any corrective measures to stop the decay. Now, the tooth is completely rotten, and the infection is threatening the health of his whole body. So, he goes to the dentist to have it removed. But the infection is so deep, the dentist has to go deep into the gum and bone. The pain is excruciating! But...it is necessary. To remove all the damage caused by his own actions, he must go through pain. The pain is necessary. The pain is ultimately healing.*
So, too, with suffering. The pain we experience is the atonement. It’s what removes our sins so we can make amends with YAHUAH.
The Hebrews’ slavery was a means of atonement. They had sinned and fallen to great spiritual depths. Their spiritual level was at an all-time low.
Their sins had affected and “infected” their being and had to be removed. The suffering of slavery brought about atonement. It was their preparation to be redeemed and to be spiritually pure to receive the Torah at Sinai.
The pain of slavery removed the sin and ultimately brought about their spiritual healing.
A Different Cry
The Hebrews cried because of the pain and the work. However, when it got worse, they then cried out to YAHUAH.
There’s a difference.
Sometimes, we cry because we don’t like what we’re going through. It’s so hard. It’s unbearable. It makes us cry and groan within.
But why are we crying? We’re crying because of the conditions.
This touches YAH’s heart. He hears and He sees, but He may not act yet because we’re not quite ready yet.
When we get to the point where our cry changes from cries of pain to cries of supplication and repentance, then we’re ready.
When we cry because we transgressed and caused our Father pain, then we’re ready.
When we’re sorry for the anguish we caused Him from our wrongdoing, then we’re ready. When we cry pleading with Him to return us back to Him, then we’re ready.
This is the ultimate goal of the suffering - to bring us back to YAHUAH. Discipline takes us off the path that leads away from YAH and directs us back to the path that leads to YAH. Sin distances us from YAHUAH, so the atoning power of the suffering allows us to draw closer to Him.
When we finally realize this and cry out to be with Him again, then we're ready to be delivered. Then, YAH will bring about the redemption to save us and deliver us from our suffering.
The End is Near
Our pain and hardship must come because of our own sins. It pains our Father to discipline us. When we’re in pain, He’s in pain. Yet, it must be done. We must correct our path, and all the damage caused by our own actions must be removed, like the pain of removing a rotten tooth.
If we’re in an unbearable situation, then we must cry out to YAHUAH. Not just because of the pain we feel, but because of the pain we caused Him. We hurt Him with our sin, and we hurt Him by requiring discipline.
When we acknowledge our own wrong and repent (turn from it to never do it again) and we’re sorry for what we did to YAH, yearning to be close to Him, then, He will hear, He will see, and He will know.
Our redemption is soon at hand.
"In my distress I called upon יהוה, And to my Elohim I cried; He heard my voice from His Hekal, And my cry went before Him, into His ears." (Teh/Ps. 18:6)
*paraphrased from Rabbi Yisroel Brog