- THE BITTER WATERS OF TORAH
My brother and my friend! In truth, how bitter are the "bitter waters" [of Torah] that pass over us! For in the beginning, the Torah is itself yet bitter. The reason for this is that we may distinguish between one who has a true Israelite soul and one whose soul issues from the multitude that accompanied Israel out of Egypt. For "no stranger shall approach thereto," and the initial bitterness of Torah will discourage one who is disqualified from tasting of the precious sweetness of the light of Torah [that appears afterwards].
It is written in the book Berit Menuhah that a scholar who denies the Torah and becomes a heretic, Heaven forbid, does so because some of the "bitter waters" passed over him and he drank from them and he was not able to bear it, and therefore he studied and he rejected.
It is unecessary to state that at the beginning, when one first undertakes to serve God and to accept upon himself the yoke of Torah, that he tastes of the bitterness of death. Even a completely righteous person must submit to these bitter pains every day and every time and every hour, in order that he might thereby enter into the light of life and the way of the righteous.
Therefore, accept upon yourself all this bitterness, and the Almighty in His great compassion will let you taste of the pleasantness of the world-to-come while you are yet in this world. So will all this bitterness be transformed into sweetness, into light for the soul.
But above all, my brother, keep silent, keep silent. Accept all this in love. then there will shine upon you the light of the King of all life.
(from Netiv Mitzvotekha, p. 80)
by R. Yitzhak Isaac Yehudah Yehiel Safran, the Rebbe of Komarno
But I thought that for all of us, and as Dr. Lamm notes later on in his essay, this is a beautiful concept. For we struggle with everything that we find difficult, and our struggles do not weigh easily on us; each one of us bears his own burden and fights his own way through a swamp of confusion. And it is gratifying to know that simply because something seems bitter right now, or difficult to do or keep, does not preclude it from being sweet in the end, and for God to shine his everlasting light upon us.