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How Do We Prevent Suffering November 2020

We learn from our oral tradition, our Talmud, that stories of suffering lead us to compassion and healing. Stories of suffering can lead us to take action since we need each other to help us out of our suffering. Here is a story of suffering from our oral tradition in the Talmud (Berachot 5b): Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba got sick. Rabbi Yochanan came to visit him. Rabbi Yochanan said, “Are your sufferings precious to you?” Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba replied, “I don’t want them, nor do I want their reward.” That is, I do not want any character building that suffering may bring.” Rabbi Yochanan said, “Give me your hand.” He gave him his hand and Rabbi Yochanan raised him up (out of his sickness). In other words, Rabbi Yochanan faith-healed Rabbi Chiya. Then, Rabbi Yochanan got sick. Now the one who healed is the one who is sick. Rabbi Chanina came to him. Rabbi Chanina said to him, “Are your suf- ferings precious to you?” A new rabbi comes to him and has the very same conversation! Rabbi Yochanan replied, “I don’t want them nor do I want their reward.” Said Rabbi Chanina, “Give me your hand.” He gave him his hand and Rabbi Chanina raised him up (out of his sickness). Rabbi Yochanan, the faith healer, needed Rabbi Chanina to heal him. So the Talmud asks – Why so? Rabbi Yochanan should have raised himself up. That is, if Rabbi Yochanan could heal Rabbi Chiya, then why couldn’t he just heal himself. Why do therapists need therapists? Why do doctors need doctors? Why can we give wise advice to our friend in need, but when we are suffering we cannot say those same things to ourselves? And the Talmud answers this question poetically. They say, “A prisoner cannot get him/herself out of his/her own shackles.” Sometimes it feels like there is no escape from our suf- fering. We become prisoners to our own illness. So we need someone to acknowledge our pain and to extend a helping hand which can lead us down a path to healing, and allow us to stand on our own two feet again. WE NEED EACH OTHER! No matter what our suffering is, it is wrong to suffer alone and as a caring, loving, Jewish community and family, we must be there for each other. May this be a Shanah Tovah, a good year, or at least a better year, for everyone. Amen. Rabbi David Schonblum

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