Psalm 118, from the Hallel prayer.
Dedicated to all those who suffer -May they be saved from their straits and may our portion be with them.
|ה מִן-הַמֵּצַר, קָרָאתִי יָּהּ; עָנָנִי בַמֶּרְחָב יָהּ.||5 Out of my strait I called upon the LORD; He answered me with great enlargement.|
Human beings have a capacity to contain great pain. Oftentimes, however, suffering washes over a person, suddenly, without preparation, in a torrent of destruction. Those not tempered by past pain, can break and shutter under the immense burden of anxiety, fear, dread and loss.
Such a state is called, "strait", in singular.
When the children of Israel groaned under the burdens of Egypt, "they could not listen to Moshe from the narrowness of spirit (kotser ruach (Ex. 6:9)". Rashi explains: "All those whose spirit is narrow and his soul is narrow and he cannot extend his breath"
If he is worthy, suffering enlarges and widens man's capacity to suffer. Within the mind and the soul there are many levels of toleration and forbearance, many expanses of hope, faith and trust, innumerable prayers and a great capacity for acceptance. These are called "depths", in plural.
Dovid HaMelech, in perhaps the most renowned chapter of Tehillim (Chapter
130) begins “Shir HaMaalos Mi’maa’makim--a Song of Ascents. From the depths I
called you…” This teaches us that there are many depths within a person's heart. Similarly, it says in Jeremiah 13:17: "But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret places...", again in plural, for suffering and pain opens and reveals to a person the many hidden places within his soul, spaces in which suffering can be contained and accommodated, places of which he was not previously aware.
This is what the second part of the verse says to us: "You have answered me with great enlargement" - that is the enlargement of my spirit, of my capacity to contain and to bear, of my knoweldge of how to cleave to You from the midst of darkness and despair.
The literal translation of 'bamerchav Yah", is that you answered me with the" widening of God". This form of speech is often nonliterally translated as "great", as, for example, in Genesis 1:2, and the spirit of the Lord, that is, the great wind, was hovering over the waters. However, here it can mean something far more profound.
Suffering does not ennoble. But suffering can broaden our concepttion of the personal God. It tests our committment to "hanging in there" with the Almighty even as He appears to abandon us to the cruelties of fate and the darkness of suffering and loss.
To go from "depth" to "depths", to open and discover new spaces within the heart and heretofore unknown reserves or hope and trust - this is one answer that God gives to suffering.