Many times, when we experience difficulty in our lives, the experience often makes us feel like we are being punished by the Creator. This, as we will learn, could not be further from the truth.
One of the profound truths revealed by Rav Ashlag in his commentary on the Ten Luminous Emanations is that it is impossible for us to feel bad when we are truly connected to the Light of the Creator. If we know that the Creator is an endless source of blessings and also the source of everything in the universe, then everything in the universe is in fact a blessing in its own way. It is only our perception of the world that sees things as negative, and through changing our perception, we have an incredible opportunity to transform both ourselves and our lives.
"We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we experience life."
Usually, we perceive the world and our experiences in it as good or bad, reward or punishment, black or white. When things go the way we want them to, we tend to think of that as something good, and when something goes wrong in our lives, we think of that as something bad. But when we feel sadness, pain, or darkness in the face of hardship, what we are doing essentially is questioning the Creator. We doubt and fear, we lose our certainty that whatever is happening is in our best interest. As Rav Ashlag puts it, the Creator becomes hidden to us in these moments. In truth, the Creator is not punishing us. We ourselves are disconnecting from the Creator, which is the real punishment, because, when we do this, we cannot fully access the Creator’s blessings.
According to Rav Ashlag, it is a spiritual law that the amount of negativity we feel is equal to the degree we have diminished our certainty in the Creator. Therefore, it is impossible to be sad and have complete certainty at the same time. If we had complete certainty, we could not possibly feel sad, because we would know there is great Light in every situation. The challenge we face then is to have certainty in the Creator, even through difficult times, and to perceive such challenges as blessings instead of punishments.
It takes hard work to be happy when we are experiencing something difficult, but that process is what strengthens our connection to the Creator. If we have the perception that there is only good in the world, we can maintain a constant connection to the Creator. This does not mean that everything in our lives is easy. On the contrary, it may mean our lives are very difficult. But we can still experience joy while we are going through difficulties, and that is only achieved through having certainty in the Creator.
"We have the choice to live either in the world of good and bad or to begin living in the perfection of the Creator, who is merciful and constantly sharing."
There is a famous story about Reb Zusha, one of the great Rabbis who studied under the Maggid of Mezeritch, that illustrates this concept. One day, a student of the Maggid went to his teacher and said to him, “I want to learn more about this concept. Tell me, how can I bless the difficulties in my life as joyfully as I bless the things that are good?” The Maggid told him to go to his other student, Reb Zusha, who’d had an extremely painful and very difficult life. The student was excited. Surely someone who has endured such pain and hardship could teach him something more about this.
So, the student went to Reb Zusha and told him that the Maggid had sent him to learn how to see negative situations as positive ones. Zusha looked at him with confusion and said, “I don’t understand. The Maggid should have sent you to someone who has had a bad experience in his life. How could I possibly teach you to experience a bad situation like a positive one? I have never had anything bad happen in my life.”
Reb Zusha had gotten to the level where he did not see his difficulties as bad. Though he had had an incredibly difficult life, he was always connected to the Light of the Creator. Through all of his challenges, he was able to see them as incredible gifts.
When we go through times of difficulty, it’s important to remember that the hurdles are not punishments. They are opportunities. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we experience life. We have the choice to live either in the world of good and bad or to begin living in the perfection of the Creator, who is merciful and constantly sharing. We have the ability to transform ourselves through transforming our perception of the world. The more that we work at this, the more we can overcome our pain, sadness, and suffering and reveal the Light of the Creator.