Dealing with Adversity – Accepting Our Imperfect Reality

The Sforno at the beginning of Parashas Pekudei describes an intriguing difference between the Mishkan in the wilderness and the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim, offering a perspective on how to order our priorities. The pesukim tell us the amounts of gold and silver used, and other particulars, which were mini­mal compared to the amounts used in the Batei Mikdash later on. The Mishkan, despite lacking the grandeur of the Beis Hamikdash, possessed a level of kedushah the latter did not have, which gave it everlasting significance. It remained intact and never fell to an enemy, unlike its sequel which was desecrated and destroyed twice. Sforno offers several reasons for this — the Mish­kan contained the luchos, and its building and maintenance were under the leadership of holy, exalted individuals such as Moshe Rabbeinu, Isamar (son of Aharon) and Betzalel. The Beis Hamikdash, its level of holiness notwithstand­ing, was largely constructed by non-Jews, even­tually required repairs and was ravaged by our enemies.

In our lives, many, if not most of us, will lack external trappings of wealth and success. How­ever, the Mishkan teaches us that those outer acquisitions are not what define us. That which matters in Hashem’s eyes is our achievements in Torah and kedushah, which are enduring.

Sometimes, Hashem sends us yissurim in terms of loss of wealth or social status. With their absence, Hashem is telling us that we stand to grow personally, although we may not grasp it at the time. By accepting our new reality sans the externalities we formerly had, we can find mean­ingful purpose in life.


In sefer Tehillim (94:12) we read, “Ashrei hagever asher teyasrenu Kah u’mi’Torascha selamdenu — Happy is the man who G-d disci­plines, and whom You teach from Your Torah.” The Radak explains that the discipline (i.e. yissurim) is for the person’s ultimate benefit, as the Torah relates, “You shall know in your heart, that just as a man will chastise his son, so does Hashem your G-d, chastise you … in order to afflict you and in order to test you, to ben­efit you in the end (Devarim 8:5, 16).” Through the yissurim, Hashem imparts knowledge and Torah, which will bring him to serve Hashem with a full heart and protect him, says the Radak, in addition to providing atonement for sin, elimi­nating the need for even worse suffering in the World to Come.

The Steipler Gaon, zt”l, citing this passuk, explains that on Rosh Hashanah, it is decreed how much yissurim one will have that year. He recounted that there was a woman who had a neighbor who was a constant annoyance. Wher­ever it was most inconvenient she would show up at their door. The woman went to the Steipler to ask for advice about what she considered a most lamentable problem. The Steipler responded that one could not escape yissurim. Sometime later the neighbor herself moved. The new neigh­bors were extremely pleasant people. However, other aspects of her life began to spin out of con­trol. One child became ill, and other unfortunate things happened. The woman returned to the Steipler, who explained that the former neighbor had protected her from the new yissurim and it would have been better not to complain.

In Pirkei Avos 2:4 we learn, “Treat His [Hashem’s] will as if it were your will, so that He will treat your will as if it were His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He will nullify the will of others before your will.”

Harav Ovadia of Bartenora explains that by aligning our will with Hashem’s, He will be moved to break the will of those who seek to harm us and cancel evil decrees. Meiri notes that by going against our nature to do His will, it will become our natural impulse to do so.


Someone once engaged a non-Jewish painter to paint his home. The owner told him he expect­ed the result to be flawless. The painter noticed there was a portrait of the Bobover Rebbe, Harav Shlomo Halberstam, zy”a, hanging on the wall. “Is this your Rabbi?” asked the painter. “Yes,” replied the owner, “What about it?” “I’ll tell you a story. I was once hired to paint the Rabbi’s house. He asked me if I had breakfast, which I hadn’t, and had me served breakfast. ‘I want to tell you some­thing,’ the Rebbe said. I imagined he would say, ‘This is costing me good money; the job better be perfect,’ as I heard often from customers. But he said, ‘We once had a Temple, a Beis Hamikdash, which was G-d’s home and, because of it, we had a perfect world. Since it was destroyed, G-d has no home and we have an imperfect world. So don’t worry if it is not a perfect job.” (There are various versions of this story.)

No one leads a perfect life in this world. We all suffer in one way or another. When we internal­ize such a mindset we are helping to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash and perfect our world.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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