In difficult moments, many have found encouragement in a pivotal and inspiring teaching of the Rebbe, based on the words of Talmud,1G‑d does not make impossible demands on His creations.”

Just as it is inconceivable that loving parents would knowingly give their child a task that is beyond their capabilities, G‑d, our loving Parent, does not present us with a challenge that is beyond our capacity to meet.

The Rebbe took this idea a step further, teaching that the greater the challenge we face in life, the greater is the accompanying inner strength we possess in order to overcome the challenge. As the following story demonstrates, in the Rebbe’s worldview, challenges of any kind are indicative of inner strength, not weakness.

A traditional Jew who found himself in a relationship forbidden by the Torah once visited the Rebbe to discuss his religious quandary.

After presenting his situation to the Rebbe, the man fell silent. He braced himself for a rebuke, expecting to be told how grave a transgression he was committing.

The Rebbe was silent for a little while. “I envy you,” he finally said.

The young man did not quite grasp the meaning. “The Rebbe,” he thought, “who is on the highest of spiritual planes, is envious of me?”

The Rebbe continued: “There are many ladders in life; each person is given his or her own. The ladders present themselves as life’s challenges and difficult choices. The tests you face are the ladders that elevate you to great heights—the greater the challenge, the higher the ladder.

“G‑d has given you this difficult test because He believes you can overcome it and has endowed you with the ability to do so. Only the strongest are presented a ladder as challenging as yours.

“Don’t you see, then, why I envy you?”2

Along similar lines, the Rebbe wrote the following lines to a young man who wrote to him describing the difficult moral and religious dilemma he faced:

By the Grace of G‑d
25th of Shevat, 5746 [February 4, 1986]
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of Jan. 26th, in which you write about a serious problem.

As requested, I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart’s desires for good….

Needless to say, a person who is afflicted with this or other neurological problems may well ask, “Why has G‑d created such a compulsive drive, one that is in direct contradiction to His moral Code? Why has he afflicted me, who desires to comply fully with His commandments?”

No human being can answer such questions, which only G‑d, the Creator, can answer. One observation that can be suggested in relation to the question “Why me?”: If an individual experiences a particularly difficult, or trying, situation, it may be assumed that G‑d has given him extraordinary powers to overcome the extraordinary difficulty. The individual concerned is probably unaware of his real inner strength; the trial may therefore be designed for the sole purpose of bringing out in the individual his hidden strength, which, after overcoming his problem, can be added henceforth to the arsenal of his revealed capacities in order to utilize both for infinitely greater achievements for the benefit of himself and others.

[Maimonides, the “Guide of the Perplexed” of his generation and of all subsequent generations, who was also acclaimed as the greatest physician of his time, declares in a well-known passage in his famous Code, Mishneh Torah (Yad Hachazaka): “Every person has the option (power), if he so desires, to direct himself to do only good and be a tzaddik, or, if he chooses, to follow the bad road and be a rasha. Do not ever think that a person is predestined from birth to be a tzaddik or rasha. Nor is there any inner compulsion to make a choice, but one has the capacity to choose the right behavior, and it is entirely a matter of one’s own will and determination” (Free translation from Hil. Teshuvah, Ch. 5. See it there at length.)]

As the Rebbe made clear on many occasions,3 the idea that G‑d does not give human beings greater challenges than they can handle applies to all of life’s challenges, not just moral and religious ones.

In the summer of 1976, the Israeli Defense Forces sponsored a tour of the United States for a large group of disabled veterans. While they were in New York, a Lubavitcher chasid came to their hotel and suggested that they meet with the Rebbe. When the group accepted the invitation, arrangements were quickly made to transport them (many of them were wheelchair bound) to the Rebbe’s headquarters. Soon they found ourselves in the famous large synagogue in the basement of 770 Eastern Parkway.

After apologizing to the group for his Ashkenazic-accented Hebrew, the Rebbe delivered a short address, in which he said: “If a person has been deprived of a limb or a faculty, this itself indicates that G‑d has given him special powers to overcome the limitations this entails and to surpass the achievements of ordinary people. You are not ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped,’ but special and unique, as you possess potentials that the rest of us do not.”

“I therefore suggest,” the Rebbe continued, adding with a smile, “of course it is none of my business, but Jews are famous for voicing opinions on matters that do not concern them—that you should no longer be called nechei Yisrael (‘the disabled of Israel,’ their official designation by the IDF) but metzuyanei Yisrael (‘the special of Israel’).”4

After delivering his address, the Rebbe walked among the group, going from wheelchair to wheelchair, shaking their hands and adding a personal word or two to each. He also gave each a dollar bill to contribute to charity on his behalf, making them his partners in the fulfillment of a mitzvah.

It was the Rebbe’s staunch and empowering belief that all challenges, as impossible and insurmountable as they may seem, are accompanied by a commensurate reservoir of fortitude and inner strength, empowering us to reach deeper into ourselves and muster the courage and conviction necessary to forge ahead on our life’s journey. The Rebbe taught that a challenge is a calling and that the tribulations sprinkled throughout our lives are there in order to bring us into closer contact with our deeper or higher selves.