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Mishlei: The Tree of Life: Personal Reflections

“My child, do not despise God’s ethical instruction, and do not allow yourself to be irritated by His rebuke, for God rebukes the one He loves, and like a father, He mollifies the child. Enriched is a person who has found wisdom, a person who can derive perception from it, for its commerce is better than the commerce of silver, and its produce, than fine gold. It is more precious than pearls, and all your desires cannot compare to it. Length of days is at its right; at its left, wealth and honor. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its pathways are peace. It is a Tree of Life to those who grasp it, and its supporters are enriched.” (Proverbs 3:11-18)

I was in a miserable situation in the hospital when my Uncle Noach zt”l called. It was my fourth stay in the hospital in less than a month and I desperately needed some cheering up. Nothing could lift my spirits more than hearing my uncle’s voice: “Reb Simcha,” he said, “God rebukes the one He loves,” yeah?” “Yes,” I hesitatingly replied. “Well, He sure must love you!!!” He hung up.

Through many years of serious illness, Uncle Noach had one consistent and constant message, that amounted to; “Your suffering is ethical instruction from God. Don’t hate it. Don’t allow it to annoy you. Learn from it and you will find wisdom and perception.” He never actually said those words; “Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its pathways are peace,” was a reality to Rav Noach, and he was an expert at conveying this uncomfortable message in pleasant and peaceful ways.

When I finally integrated Rav Noach’s lesson and paid attention to God’s ethical instruction, I recovered. I learned a great deal about myself and discovered hidden strengths that propelled me forward. I’m still waiting for the “wealth,” but rejoice in the length of days. I learned to grasp onto Torah as the Tree of Life, and experience the enrichment that develops from to caring for, and nurturing the Tree.

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