The Battle of the Generation - Day 11
Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation"
We are fortunate that Hashem gave us an open opportunity to become great. He gave us the battle against desire because He wants us to win! He is rooting for us to succeed because He wants us to reach greatness!
Growing up in the 21st century, we are repeatedly challenged with intense desires. From a young age, we learn how cool it is to chase our desires without restraint, and for the most part, we can do just that. Prevailing in any of the situations we constantly face requires going against our nature. Although this definitely does mean that we face greater dangers than people of previous generations did, we are not at a disadvantage. Challenges like these have never been seen before in our nation’s history. If we can prevail, we will accomplish something truly unique. The great people of earlier generations would in a way be envious of our achievements. Despite everything they have achieved, they were not given the opportunity to face these battles to the extent that we have. We must grab this opportunity and become excited by our challenges. They give us the chance to become great!
In his book Listen to Your Messages (pages 217-218), Rabbi Yissochar Frand relates a powerful story. Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twersky once visited a young woman suffering from multiple sclerosis. She was deteriorating rapidly and was a burden on her family. There was no hope for her recovery. Understandably, she was very depressed. What could anyone say to such a woman?
Rabbi Twersky told her the following story from the Gemara (Sanhedrin 101a): When Rabbi Eliezer became deathly ill, four rabbis came to visit him: Rabbi Tarfon, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaria, and Rabbi Akiva. Each one tried to comfort Rabbi Eliezer.
Rabbi Tarfon said, “You are more precious to the Jewish people than rain because rain only brings benefit in this world while you bring benefit in this world and in the Next World.”
Rabbi Yehoshua said, “You are more precious than the sun because the sun only brings benefit in this world while you bring benefit in this world and in the Next World.”
Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaria said, “You are more precious than parents because parents only bring benefit in this world while you bring benefit in this world and in the Next World.”
Finally, Rabbi Akiva spoke and said, “Suffering is precious.”
Rabbi Eliezer responded, “Prop me up so I can hear the words of Rabbi Akiva.”
This story is hard to understand. Why did Rabbi Akiva’s words bring greater consolation to Rabbi Eliezer than the words of the other rabbis?
Rabbi Twersky explained: Rabbi Eliezer was lying on his deathbed, and he knew he would never have the opportunity to teach Torah again. The other rabbis had focused on what he had accomplished in the past, and that did not console Rabbi Eliezer because those accomplishments were never coming back. However, Rabbi Akiva told him that there was something he could still accomplish — he could accept his suffering with love and trust in Hashem.
With this message, Rabbi Twerski consoled the suffering woman.
We need not feel that we are suffering. We can feel the thrill of going against our nature and prevailing in the most difficult challenge in the history of mankind. Cultivating this attitude will make our lives exciting and meaningful. Rather than constantly feeling the sting of unfulfilled urges and guilt, we will be fired up about life and we will be much happier.
Ultimately, what we really want most is happiness. Without it, all the pleasures in the world are worthless. We can get there if we develop the right attitude and decide to fight in the battle of the generation.
- Attaining what we desire does not make us happy, because physical pleasure can’t live up to the hype.
- Realizing this allows us to stay calm and in control when we face desire.
- Desire cannot satisfy us because it is not what we really long for.
- Our ultimate desire is to reach greatness.
Hashem gave us the incredible opportunity to become great by challenging us with difficult spiritual battles, especially the battle against desire. WE CAN BECOME GREAT!