Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #24, “Acceptance of suffering”
One bent on acquiring the Torah has no time for this question. If one is already suffering, more than enough time is taken up with doctors, psychologists, pastoral couneslors or others. To let this divert one from acquiring the Torah would simply add to one’s misery.
I do not mean to be flippant. Suffering is depressing. Suffering robs one of normal life and self. Suffering can also be expensive. My late father, when he was suffering from medical conditions, used to say, “Enjoy your health while you have it.”
The acquisition of the Torah, if truly felt to be a link to the Giver of the Torah, exercises its allure, no matter what. It bestows joy: another word, another idea, another law, another text, another insight. All cascade down on one who thirsts to acquire the Torah, even on a person beset by suffering.
The process of acquiring the Torah also motivates one to transcend suffering, to the extent possible, since the healthier one becomes, the more Torah one can acquire.
At some point in everyone’s life, everyone suffers. Thus, one bent on the aquisition of the Torah will accept suffering when it comes.
The 24th way to acquire the Torah: Acceptance of Suffering.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations; Way #16b, Portion Control; Way #17, Limited Pleasure; Way #18, All nighters; Way #19, Limited Conversation; Way #20, Limited Entertainment; Way #21, Slowness to anger; Way #22, A good heart; Way #23, Faith in the sages