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Pain of the World

Topic: Consciousness | Posted:July 23, 2012

There is a tremendous opportunity for growth this month that involves the idea of feeling the pain of the world. The Zohar teaches that the feminine aspect of the Light of the Creator, the Shechinah, feels all the suffering in our world— and as we learn to feel that pain, we can bring greatness into our lives.

When we think about feeling the pain of others, we may tell ourselves that it’s an altruistic thing to do, or a sharing action that we can take if we have the time. But most of us don’t have the time. We are too busy at work or with our families. Who has the time, or the stomach, to go out and uncover the pain of others and not just to find it, but to actually feel that pain?

But consider what the Bible says about Moses while he was growing up in Egypt. He would go out every single day and see—and feel—the pain of the Israelites who were enslaved by the Egyptians. The kabbalists teach that it was that willingness to feel another’s pain that brought the great connection that Moses developed with the Creator.

In The Gift of the Bible (published as The Wisdom of Truth), Rav Ashlag speaks about this idea. He says that as long as we are involved with our selfish concerns, it is almost impossible to feel the pain around us. As a result, it is also impossible to share with others. Rav Ashlag says that only by working toward removing our selfish aspects can we hope to begin to feel the pain of others.

Again, remember that the reason we want to make empathy a consistent part of our spiritual work is not because we want to share. Rather, it is the knowledge that we cannot bring the blessings and fulfillment of the Light into every area of our lives unless we make feeling the pain of others an integral part of our spiritual work.

Only a person who assumes part of the pain of the world can generate enough merit to partake of the ultimate joy.

We cannot have one without the other. If we divorce ourselves from the pain of the world, then we also divorce ourselves from the Light of the Creator.

Once, a great kabbalist was approached by one of his students whose son was terribly ill. The doctors had given up all hope. The student thought, “If anybody can help now, maybe it’s my teacher.”

So the student asked the great kabbalist, “Is there anything you can do? Can you pray? Can you open the Gates of Heaven?” So the kabbalist prayed. But after a while he turned to his student and said, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing that I can do. The Gates of Heaven are closed.”

Of course, the student was heartbroken. He got on his horse and traveled back toward his home. But after riding for five or ten minutes, he heard somebody galloping after him at full speed. Seeing that it was his teacher, he stopped by the side of the road. As soon as the great kabbalist caught up with him, the student asked, “Were you able to open the Gates of Heaven?”

The teacher said, “No, I’m sorry to tell you again that the Gates of Heaven are closed. But I realized after you left that if I can’t help your son, the least I can do is cry with you.” And they sat down by the side of the road and they cried together.

The story goes on to show how the two men were able to find a way to save the student’s son, but that’s not the important point. The key teaching of the story is that there is always something more that we can do. And one thing we can always do is feel the pain of others.

This story tells us that no matter how much we think we’ve done, there is always something more that we can do. If we can’t help somebody, we can cry with them. We can feel their pain.

None of us have come even close to our full potential for helping. It is the special call of this month to work on that. We need to find all the ways that we can help. And when we think we’ve found all the ways, we can remember this story. There is always something else we can do.

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