See, I place before you today a blessing and a curse . . . (Deuteronomy 11:26)

When the Torah proclaims that G‑d is the source of both the blessing and the curse, this can be understood as G‑d telling us not to complain, and to just accept all curses and suffering as coming from Him. On a deeper level, the Torah is presenting us with a more complex understanding of the nature of suffering: that all things, the blessings and the curses, derive equally from Him, and are thus all positive; the blessing as a revealed kindness, and the curse as an opportunity for us to transform evil into an opportunity for blessing.

The era directly following the passing of Rebbe DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, was terrible for the Jews. After a long period of benign neglect, the government began to promulgate many new anti-Semitic decrees. Additionally, to add insult to injury, a number of plagues and natural disasters struck the local communities.

At about that time, one of the Maggid’s principal disciples had a dream in which his departed mentor appeared to him. The disciple asked his master to explain an apparent anomaly. Departed tzaddikim (righteous people) are described as having more power to affect nature after their passing than they had while still mortal. Why, then, he asked, did all those calamities, that the rebbe’s prayers had averted while he was still alive, resume upon his passing?

Rabbi DovBer explained. “While in this world, I recognized evil as such and prayed to G‑d to save us, and thank G‑d my prayers were often answered. Now I reside in the world of truth, and from my new perspective I divine the rationale of the Divine. I now see how everything G‑d visits on the world, even that which is apparently negative, is in reality part of G‑d’s celestial plans for our ultimate good.

“You, however, who are alive and still perceive the iniquity implicit in human suffering—you should pray to G‑d, and ward off the evil.”

My understanding of this classic Chassidic story is twofold. Primarily, G‑d is good, and wishes only well for His creations, as we would appreciate were we on the requisite spiritual level. From our perspective, however, evil is evil, and suffering still hurts. And because of who we are, and what we see, it is our job to stand up for those in need, comfort those in pain, and cry out to G‑d to demand and pray that He find a less painful way to run His world.

If we could accept this apparent dichotomy, accept the knocks without losing hope, and work towards a present where even the apparent is pleasant, then we will surely merit to see that everything we receive is truly a gift from Above.1