Kenneth Cohen

Suffering Affords Greatness

This week we read פרשת נצבים. We are told that Moshe Rabbeinu spoke his words of encouragement immediately after the frightening rebuke.

He was telling the nation that despite their disobedience, they would not be forsaken. A major part of this encouragement, was to also explain that there are benefits to adversity.

This lesson was first learned in Egypt, when the Torah tells us that, “the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied.” Rabbi Avraham Twerski said that history has proven that suffering affords greatness.

During adverse situations, there is much more motivation to overcome. Somehow it brings out the best in people. Rabbi Twerski further said that luxury and comfort are not conducive to Torah scholarship. Our greatest scholars lived under very meager conditions of, “eating bread and salt, and sleeping on the floor.”

It has been claimed that the majority of the numerous Jewish Nobel Prize winners, achieved their success under difficult conditions.

As Jews, we are taught to see the silver lining in every situation. Moshe Rabbeinu’s parting words to his people, was that they would face many challenges in the future. But they will learn to turn these challenges into gains. It is this suffering that began with our slavery in Egypt, but out of it, we emerged as the great Nation of Israel.

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