Translated by Moshe Neveloff
In the modern era there are endless ways to treat pain. For physical pain many different medicines have been invented. For spiritual pain there are a wide variety of legal and illegal substances that can help someone forget the pain. If these methods don’t find favor in a person’s eyes he can escape to the world of entertainment, where he can imagine anything except for the painful truth. Alternatively, he can absorb himself in physical pleasures where he’ll feel an imagined sense of happiness. Of course, there are other creative ways for a person to escape from his pain. Together with all of the modern technological developments (cars, air conditioning, portable communication, etc.) which ease any small feeling of discomfort, we are not used to, and seemingly not able to deal with pain. The moment we feel pain we want to be rid of it immediately.
However, Rebbe Nachman taught us not to run away from the pain. Feel the pain. In the 8th Torah of Likutei Moharan Rebbe Nachman praises groaning: Groaning is the lengthening of a breath, and it is the aspect of patience, therefore when somebody groans over his difficulty and lengthens his breath (spirit), he brings a spirit of life to his lacking, because the main cause of a deficiency is the removal of the spirit of life, and therefore through groaning someone is able to fulfill what he was lacking. But from where does someone receive the spirit of life? Know that the main spirit of life is received from the Tzaddik and the Rav of the generation.”
From these words we see that pain is not something bad that we need to escape from. The pain is a lacking that we need to fulfill. We need to fill the empty space inside with spirit and to enliven what is lacking. This is impossible to do if someone escapes from his pain. We need to feel the pain in order to fill it with life. Rebbe Nachman teaches that this spirit of life is received from the Tzaddik.
How this principle works is explained in one of his stories, the story of a wealthy merchant and a poor person (Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, the tenth story). The story tells of a wealthy merchant who was neighbors with a poor person. The wealthy merchant represents the Tzaddik, who is spiritually wealthy. One day the wife of the merchant and the wife of the poor person went walking with a group of women and the poor man’s wife was kidnapped by an army captain. When the poor man heard what had happened he cried bitterly that he had been left with nothing, since he did not have any children. When the merchant heard his neighbor’s crying he came to his house to ask what had happened, and the poor man told him the story of the kidnapping. The merchant was overcome with mercy for the poor man and set off on a wild journey to find the wife. In the end he was able to rescue her and bring her home.
Regarding the merchant’s mercy for the poor man, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Bender zt”l taught: “Surely this is how the Tzaddik behaves with his followers. The moment that somebody expresses his pain and cries out over his shortcomings in the service of G-d, the Tzaddik comes to his aid, takes interest in his situation, doesn’t leave him in sorrow, and gives him advice to help him have a salvation. Therefore the only thing that is upon us is to express our bitterness over our sins, cry a lot, and pray to be saved from our sins and shortcomings. And when the merchant (Tzaddik) sees that we truly want to be saved, he is overcome with mercy and does what he can to help us have a salvation.”
We need to open our hearts and express our pain. We need to truly want to be saved and to reach a better place in our lives. In the right time the Tzaddik will send us advice how to be saved from our difficulty, we don’t need to search for solutions ourselves. As Rav Bender said our job is only to reveal our pain, to feel the bitterness of our situation and cry out.
It’s a wonderful thing to travel to the Tzaddik and to tell him our difficulties. However on a normal day, when we’re not by Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite, we have the precious gift that the Rebbe gave to us, an hour of personal prayer. An hour each day without interruptions, without telephone calls, without masks, and without the marathon of life, it’s only you and G-d. You can breathe deeply, sigh, and tell Him everything you’re going through. Tell G-d your pain and bitterness, and also the good things in your life. The most important thing is to be real without putting on a show or searching for solutions. After you have told G-d what you are going through, the solutions are in his hands and the hands of his faithful ones, the Tzaddikim.
When you escape from the pain, the pain is truly with you all the time and you always need to find new ways run away from it. However, when somebody faces his pain an hour a day truthfully and simply and believes that good is coming to him, the rest of the day it is possible to fulfill another teaching of Rebbe Nachman- to be happy all the time (Likutei Moharan II, Torah 24).