Kenneth Cohen

Dealing With Difficulties

We are now in the period between Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron. We remember those who perished in the Holocaust, as well as our fallen soldiers. It is certainly a time of reflection in trying to understand why the innocent suffer.

Rabbi Avraham Twerski, זצ״ל, was both a rabbi and psychiatrist. He told the story of when he was a young doctor, that was still a part-time synagogue rabbi. He tragically watched a new mother looking after her baby, who was born with terminal illnesses. He did his best to comfort her with prayer, but felt completely impotent.

He went to his father for advice. He asked how it was possible that as both a doctor and a rabbi, he could not help this poor woman. After all, these were the two occupations meant to bring hope and healing to people.

The senior Rabbi Twerski gave the following sage advice. We must remember that as humans, we are not capable of understanding G-d’s ways. We know that G-d is perfection, and there is no being in the world as merciful as Him. Sometimes, it’s difficult for us humans to see that mercy, but it is always there.

He continued by saying that the young mother would never be the same after losing her baby. This is the nature as to how we grow as human beings. We grow by way of difficulties. We do not grow when things are going well. Sometimes, it takes being shaken up a bit, to motivate us. This explains that in the teachings of Chassidut, its disciples learned to embrace the difficulties.

The word, נגע, meaning blemish, has the same letters as the word, ענג, meaning delight. They would see the נגע as a sign that something really good was just around the corner.

If we learn how to adopt this philosophy, we will view life’s challenges from a different light. Rabbeinu Tam, the grandson of Rashi, called this world, נוה תלאות, the dwelling place of difficulties. We are meant to learn how to overcome and grow from these difficulties.

If we acquire the faith and skills in embracing these challenges, we will merit living in the eternal world, also known as עולם האמת, the World of Truth.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at