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Coping with Pain

Coping with Pain



I live with constant pain. How do I cope?


I've procrastinated in responding to this letter simply because whatever I write will be presumptuous. But on the other hand, to not answer would be even worse. So here goes:

First, let me preface that I am also not a stranger to pain. As long as I can remember, from my early childhood, much of which was spent confined to a bed or couch, until my current age of 50, pain has always been my companion. I say this simply to soften the audacity of what follows.

Pain is both a friend and an enemy—and he must be that way.

In what way a friend? Because pain provides us an opportunity to rise above our physical bodies and say, "This is not me who is in pain. This is only my body. I am healthy. I am fine. I am whole."

In this way, pain cleanses and uplifts a person higher than he could achieve by other means—especially if he will grasp the opportunity and not simply kick and thrash about. Pain is brought to us from Above, and all that comes from Above is good. Not just "for the good"--it is truly good, such good that we cannot perceive its benefit. Take a look at this link to chapter 26 of Tanya, especially from the line beginning, "Sound advice has been offered..." If it hadn't been written there, I wouldn't be able to write it to you.

This thought itself alleviates the pain. Just as the pain of hunger subsides when you think of the excess calories being burnt away; or the pain of a needle vanishes when you know it is an acupuncture needle aimed to provide relief that will quickly come, so, too, realizing that all pain is truly good, that it is lifting you up, healing your soul, granting you a view of life and reality from a vantage point that others will never have—that itself will relieve some of the pain. Some of the time.

But not all the time. Because pain is also our enemy. Pain prevents us from being productive, from throwing our strength and power and talents into good things to benefit ourselves and others, from being joyful and thanking G‑d for the life we've been given and the wonderful things that fill it.

So defy the enemy. Start by saying, "Thank you very much for the opportunities you provide me, but actually I can take care of all of these myself. I will recognize on my own that I am not the body. I will learn humility and smallness all by myself. I will ignore you and do all those good things despite you and even sing the praises of my Maker in defiance of your ploys."

I know it sounds absurd to take both these strategies at once, but that is what it means to be a Jew—to live an entirely absurd existence. The fact that we are here at all is absurd. So that is how we live and how we survive.

Of course, as the Rebbe would always write, at the same time continue with whatever medical treatment the doctor prescribes. When conventional medicine fails, there are alternatives. Just don't put your faith in doctors and medicine—never believe that this treatment or this doctor or this clinic will be the one to save you. The healing of a Jew is entirely from Above, it's just that we must provide some natural means by which that healing may enter our world.

All that I wrote above is based on letters I have seen from the Rebbe. Like I said, it would be audacious for me to write to someone in pain and tell him how to live with it if I were writing my own inventions.

The Rebbe would also urge checking your mezuzahs and tefillin. Do you have mezuzahs and tefillin? Forgive me asking you—I have no way of knowing from your email.

Even after the Rebbe's passing, many people still write and ask for his blessing. In my experience and the experience of many, it works. We have seen many great miracles. Click here for more info.

With blessings for all good things—and please let me know when they happen!

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Painting by Chassidic artist Hendel Lieberman.
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AngelOne Seattle May 8, 2017

I've lived with severe pain and disease for 20+ years, I'm 35. Each day when I see the sunrise and hear the birds sing, I'm thankful just to be here. Everyday when my husband brings me my medicine, strokes my head, I'm thankful for the love G-d has given my husband for me and I for him. Each night when I feel the pain deep into my bones that keeps me from sleep, I look out at the sky, my sleeping family and I pray for the strength to be thankful for one more day. Reply

Brenda K Winters Webb Spicewood, Texas December 26, 2016

My Parents murder by Neglect in 2010 In Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2010 a felon who was a drug addict neglected my parents to death and terrorized them. What they needed was a Nursing home but too many people wanted their money and took it-life is more important-but in 2016 the one who did it had not been caught and it still has harmed all of my family and others-We lost our inheritance-they did not deserve the horrible punishment-and the felon would not even allow my brother or I to see them-the police helped with that-because they did not now the laws and sided with evil. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA January 8, 2015

Should Pain and Suffering Be Stumbling Blocks for the Faithful? While suffering exists in this age, we must believe Gd is omnipotent. Why then does Gd allow horrid things if He can stop any disease like magic?
To allow disease is not a sign of Gd’s impotence, even if it is a condition that is chronic and/or causing excruciating pain. Just as a rich man may lose everything in seconds, so to can any creature suffer disease. Similarly, as any man may gain a fortune in seconds, so to can we receive speedy recovery from any and every chronic disease. While we don’t know why some may suffer, we know justice must prevail, either divine reward or divine punishment, according to our deeds.
We can’t have faith and believe in the possibility of the incurable. Maimonides taught that to deny Moshiach’s coming, and subsequently the arrival of a world without suffering, is equivalent to denial of Torah in its entirety. Rather, than stumbling blocks, the existence of pain and suffering should be motivators for us to help Gd achieve His ultimate goal; peace. Reply

doreet Eugene July 18, 2014

Coping with Pain. I have studied religions' beliefs all my life, I'm 66 yrs old; I talked to all kinds of experts, from different belief systems and science. I have found,there is no guarantee of reason or justice for pain. We can't figure out why G-d does things and that is not necessary to have an answer. Most people in the world have hard lives,and they accept that life that way. That is the best thing to do;stop rationalizing why life is hard; there may be no just reason. Humans ask "why?" but we are constructed to expect rational reasons; God or the Universe may not have any. There's no reason it should make sense. Just accept it. Reply

lemele Brooklyn, NY September 9, 2017
in response to doreet:

To every "Why" uttered the answer is always "Because" Reply

Joshua Mark June 16, 2013

What is the name of the image and who is the painter? Fascinating painting Reply

Anonymous Israel January 8, 2013

Coping with chronic pain I have had bone cancer, neurological cancer & now Guillaine-Barre from a contaminated pnuemonia vaccine I didn't need. 53 years of constant pain, 24 surgeries & living with morphine & methadone, medical cannibus (great for nausea, depression & neurological pain). If not for my faith & the wisdom of the Torah, I would have lost hope long ago, maybe even be angry at my Maker for giving me all this pain. But I know that Hashem is GOOD. I don't understand the Why of this "tikkun," but I will never let my yetzer hara take away the spiritual joy that has made this painful, yet joyful, life endurable. My doctors don't understand why I'm still alive, but they know that it is my Faith that has made it possible. Reply

JDV January 10, 2012

coping with pain We can't erase pain from our lives entirely but look at what pain could be avoided or at least lessened by changing our way of thinking and doing things. For example, someone who never wants to go for tests at a doctor's because they don't want the "pain" of finding out that something is wrong could endure more pain in the long run if the situation worsens and major surgery is needed. Reply

Pain ca, ca May 18, 2011

my name is Pain seriously, My actual name is Pain, my only brother died recently and my mother is sufering so much, how to recover from this? how to help mom? I am so hurt. Reply

Anonymous Columbia, SC December 9, 2010

Pain Management. Although I am not in constant pain, I certainly sympathize with you. Most of us have experienced some type of pain. Be it Physical or emotional. Pain is pain. All of us long to see a time when pain and suffering is totally done away with. That being the case, the earth will be filled with joyfulness. But a question in your mind might be: Is that really possible. The answer is yes. The scripture at Isaiah 65:17-19 shows us how. There it shows that instead of pain and crying, there will be joy. If you continue reading to the end of the chapter, you will find that all things that cause suffering will be completely eradicated from this earth. Reply

Beverly Kurtin Hurst, TX February 5, 2009

Chronic pain Pain is a gift; it lets us know that something is wrong with our body. As I write this, I am sitting in my favorite manual wheelchair; I’m in it because spinal stenosis prevents me from being able to walk without pain. Although I wear a pain patch that is 80 times more potent than Morphine, the pain is so intense that it breaks through so I pick up a book of jokes or go to YouTube and find something to laugh about. That kicks off the endorphins that Hashem has graciously implanted in our brains and it almost instantly stops the remaining pain. Laughter really IS the best medicine, that and the realization that we can tap into the Healer’s ability to heal. It takes concentration at the meditation level to get there, but it is possible to do anywhere and anytime. If the pain is too much to bear, consult with an anesthesiologist; they do more than just put people to sleep.C Reply

Yvette Desert cities, Ca December 13, 2008

pain Thank you for the article on pain. I am a noahide who 10 years ago could not walk.
G-d has granted me my legs back 30 days
I stopped all pain meds. Im trusting G-d even on the hard days. I have so much more joy and contentment now. Thank you for even covering the hard subjects. May G-d bless
your family with his grace. Reply

Jonathan Johannesburg, South Africa December 1, 2008

BARBARA I have not logged into this column for a long time - however, sincerely hope that by now you are a lot stronger and not feeling so "weak and shaky." All the best Barbara and know that G-d knows what is happening. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA November 29, 2008

your constant pain May I recite a bracha for your healing.

Thank you. Reply

Hilda Perez el paso, tx July 29, 2008

Excellent article. These are two students attending University of Phoenix for Masters in Nursing. Loved your words to construct power point of Jewish culture and beliefes.Was helpful for presentation regarding cultural diversity and we learn a lot from your writing. Thank you. Hilda and Norma. Reply

Barbara June 11, 2008

Thank you to South Africa Gd bless you. Reply

Patty Kingsport, Tenessee/US.A June 11, 2008

Coping With Pain As I've read over the comments that were already here, and the new ones that have been added, along with what I myself contributed. I'm taken back to when my mother was alive. She was always in pain. For many years she was in constant pain due to illness. She answered my question one day when I asked, "Mom, how do you cope with your pain"? She answered this way, she said, "As long as I wake up feeling my pain, I know I'm still alive". "If I awake and I'm no longer hurting, I'll know that I am still alive, but that I've moved along to another place in time, and creation". This has helped me with much pain, both physical and mental over the years. I send to you the reader, many blessings of piece and coping skills for your pain. What ever it may be. Reply

Anonymous Johannesburg, South Africa June 11, 2008

Thank you to South Africa Great to hear that you have seen a doctor and are feeling better Barbara!!
"Still weak and shaky" - this too will pass as you get stronger so be positive and know that G-d brought us to this column for a reason - to help you. Reply

Barbara June 9, 2008

Thank you to South Africa Rebbe Nachman said to go only to the very best doctor. I don't have insurance.

Are you a doctor? In any case, I am really grateful to you for your concern.

I went to a doctor last Wed.

I have pleurisy, an inflammation in the chest wall. He explained the phrase "chest wall," which seems to include everything: skin, muscle, bone, and more.
He talked about being uncertain what to do. He said maybe a Tylenol-codeine combo would let me sleep. But I've started sleeping for six hours at a time; meanwhile, Tylenol is bad for the kidneys or liver, and mine cannot handle even a little of it.
He also considered an antibiotic, but doctors have warned me for twenty years that I cannot handle those, because of a longstanding chronic digestive condition.
He considered an Xray, but the pain stopped moving and is clearly in the chest wall.
Pain much less. Getting more air, & get the stabbing pain only if lying down. (I sleep sitting up.) But still weak & shaky. Thanks so much! Reply

Anonymous Johannesburg, South Africa June 3, 2008


Yes, you do need urgent help.
Have you seen a doctor? From what you have said, I don't think you have. Doctors, like all of us, are from G-d - PLEASE see a doctor ASAP. I am sure that a good doctor will be able to help you.
Philosophy does not replace medical assistance - unless a diagnosis has been made and the pain is chronic. Reply

Benjamin June 3, 2008

Cheryl Have you ever stubbed your toe or had anything hurt at all?

Can you imagine it going on and on and on without ever stopping?

Can you imagine how difficult that could be to live with?

And if it did, would you like someone to say to you that it was interseting?

I hope you didn't mean that the way it sounded. Truly I hope so. Reply

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