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!