In the old days, people recognized suffering as a part of regular life. Suffering was normal. It was ordinary. You accepted it as part of the regular reality of existence.

People had to toil a lot harder in order to earn a living, the basic chores of life required more time and strenuous effort, disease was prevalent, life expectancy was shorter, and natural disaster, war and political upheaval were much more common. Life, in short, was seen as something throughout which you had to endure suffering.

When we fear suffering and try to avoid it, we numb our hearts to the reality of life In the 21st century, life is good, thank G‑d. Technology, affluence and political tolerance have afforded us with ease, safety and comfort never before seen on the landscape of world history. We have time, we have the means to provide for needs as well as luxuries, and we are healthy and safe. This is all good.

What may not be a great thing, though, is that the comfort and security that life today affords has somehow convinced us that suffering is abnormal, and that we must do everything in our power to avoid it or negate it, run away from it or erase it. We want to believe that suffering is no longer supposed to be a part of life and therefore we fear suffering.

As a result, ours is a culture which has normalized the use of pharmaceutical mood changers, a culture which distracts itself en masse with entertainment, sports, recreation and the acquisition of material excess, and a culture in which personal therapy, counseling, coaching, training, and the like are part and parcel of daily life. We try our best to avoid suffering.

The catch is that life is still full of suffering. This is not a bad thing—it is just life. When we fear suffering and try to avoid it, we are actually numbing our hearts to the reality of life itself. In such a psychological and emotional space, the need for spirituality is lost, as well as the need for connection to the infinite unknown, for deeper purpose, for answers to life's most vital questions.

We fear that if we experience the suffering of life fully, our hearts may not take it and we may become scarred or crippled. In fact, just the opposite is true. When we still ourselves from those things which distract us from life and are able to fully embrace it, then we actually sensitize our hearts and minds to a deeper truth, a deeper calling, and a more healing experience of reality.

To not eat is to suffer. G‑d gives us this day to try and wake us upOn Yom Kippur the Torah commands us to "afflict ourselves" by not eating. To not eat is to suffer. G‑d gives us this day to try and wake us up, to shake us out of our slumber, to sensitize us to the truth of reality, to the deeper places within ourselves, to our need for Him.

I hope that you'll join the millions of Jews worldwide who are fasting this Yom Kippur.