This past Passover, I used a Haggadah seder by Rabbi Twersky, which I picked out of the pile at my sister-in-law's. He writes about the experience of suffering, in the context of the Jews' slavery in, and then our exodus from, Egypt. Part of what he says is this:
We said that we cried out unto Hashem to be merciful and relieve our distress, and that He heard our prayers. Yes, but why all the years of suffering? Why did He not intervene earlier?While this question does not always have a question that satisfies our logic, I did gain some insight on this in the pediatrician's office.
A mother had brought her infant to a doctor for immunization. As soon as the child saw the white-clad doctor, he began crying, remembering only too well what had befallen him at this man's hands just several months earlier. The mother assisted the physician by forcefully restraining the child, who clawed and kicked her. If we could enter the child's mind, we would no doubt discover that he was violently angry at his mother, who had suddenly betrayed him, and who instead of protecting him from harm as she usually did, was now collaborating with this brutal oppressor, who was going to stab him with a sharp instrument. The moment the physician withdrew the needle, and the mother released her restraining hold, the infant embraced her and clung to her for dear life.
But why? Was she not the very person who had just betrayed him and subjected him to such intense pain? Obviously, the infant's trust in the mother was so great that even though he thought she allowed him to be hurt, he nevertheless turned to her for comfort, protection, and relief from the pain. This is precisely how we relate to Hashem. Although we cannot understand why He subjects us to suffering, any more than the infant can understand his mother's behavior, our trust in Him is so great that it is not shaken by our suffering. Even when we angrily protest, we are nevertheless aware that Hashem is a loving and caring father, and that is why we appeal to Him in our distress.
I read that, and started to cry.
It isn't true, of course, that suffering doesn't shake our faith. But what is true for babies, and for adults as well, is that even when we don't understand, even when we feel betrayed, that we hold on because we have to. Barak clings to me. He clung to me even after the horrible blood draw that took what seemed like days and has left him permanently terrified by white coats. He clings to me because he has no other mother, and he trusts me because he must.
Eventually, of course, if I betrayed him enough times, he would no longer trust me. And when we feel God has betrayed us, it isn't always easy to keep faith. But just as Barak could not understand, could not possibly understand, that I was hurting him because I loved him, we must remind ourselves that we cannot possibly understand why God sometimes hurts us.
When Barak is big enough, he'll understand. I hope that someday, I will too.