Dear Readers,

Seemingly out of nowhere, my friend’s teenage daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Thank G‑d, her cancer is treatable, and her prognosis for the future appears bright. Nevertheless, she has to undergo months and months of chemotherapy treatment, a complex operation and then further chemotherapy to ensure that no cancer cells remain in her body.

For the last many months, my friend has spent most of her days in the cancer ward. She describes how hard it is to watch her child experience so much pain and illness, such physical and emotional suffering.

The chemotherapy protocol is brutal, her daughter has lost all her lovely locks of hair, and she has become terribly weak. “The cancer is treatable,” my friend makes an attempt at humor, “unless the chemo kills her first!”

My friend and her husband take turns sitting at their daughter’s bedside. They watch with mixed emotions as the chemo concoction slowly drips intravenously into their daughter’s body. A part of them wants to pull it out, knowing that this poison will wreak such havoc. Of course, they also know that it is lifesaving.

The Talmud teaches us that “there are four things whose creation G‑d regrets every day. The first is galut, exile.” (Sukkah 52b)

What does it mean that G‑d “regrets” something? And how can something exist if G‑d regrets it? G‑d, as our Creator, is constantly re-creating us at every moment. Should G‑d not wish for something to exist, He does not need to “destroy” it, but merely no longer will it into being and stop providing the Creative force that vitalizes it. (Imagine a balloon—for as long as you blow, it swells, but the moment you stop blowing, the balloon regresses to a mere small piece of rubber.)

When we regret something, it means we desired it at one point, but then no longer do (in the present tense). Applying the term “regret” to G‑d, who is beyond time, conceptually means that G‑d desires some aspect of exile and yet also does not desire it.

G‑d desires the positive ramifications of exile—the amazing strength, fortitude, faith and kindness that emerges from the depths of the Jewish soul after being challenged to the limit. And yet, He also abhors exile—the pain, suffering, cries and tears that it causes us, His precious children.

Until there is a new medical breakthrough, my friend has no choice but to subject her daughter to the ravages of the chemo treatments in order to save her life. On the other hand, G‑d is infinite and has the ability of achieving the benefits even without the pain. Moreover, we’ve been in exile far too long! May all the benefits we have accomplished in exile finally suffice to end our suffering, and may we finally experience how it heralds the final redemption—when all sickness and sorrow will be erased from the face of this earth.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW