In the times of the First Temple lived very lofty souls. It was their thirst for spiritual ecstasy that led them to worship foreign gods.
Thousands of years later, the holy Ari taught, in the 500 years of forced conversions from the Crusades until the Spanish Expulsion, these souls returned so they could be repaired.
Many of the martyrs of that time were men of reason—and for a philosopher to give his life for the sanctity of G‑d’s name is a very great test. Many did, and so they were healed.
When the Ari came, however, he revealed the secret wisdom and repaired the world, so that all souls were healed and no repairs were left to be made. It follows that all the suffering of the Jewish people since the Ari are neither punishment nor repair. If so, what are they?
We do not know.
One thing we do know: That we do not know.
- See Sefer Hasichot 5751a, page 248, footnote 116
At first, there was punishment.
There were prophets who warned the people—for there is no punishment without warning.
There were people who understood what they were doing and did it anyways—for there is no punishment without conscious intent.
And so, up to and including the destruction of the First Temple, there was punishment.
But then came a time when there were no prophets to provide due warning.
And rare was the man who had the power of mind to intentionally sin. The suffering that occurred then, since the time of the Second Temple, cannot be called punishment. Instead it is called “tikkun”—healing, repair. Souls of past generations returned to this world to be repaired by standing firm despite great challenge and tribulation.
Then came the master of the hidden wisdom, the great Ari. According to his disciples, with his teachings he repaired all the souls of Israel.
It follows, writes the Mitteler Rebbe, that the suffering of the Jewish people since the Holy Ari, of blessed memory, are neither punishment nor repair. If so, what are they?
We do not know.
One thing we do know: We know that we do not know.
But simply because the human mind cannot know a thing, does that mean this thing cannot exist? Because we cannot give a reason, is there then no reason?
Or perhaps it simply means that we should be a little more humble, since we are not the ones who made this world. We must wait, and when all the drama is done, then we will know with the knowledge of the Author Himself.
Only then, once we leave behind forever these dark clouds, will we fathom and truly see that all darkness is profound light.
- See Sefer Hasichot 5751a, page 248, footnote 116.
Source: Tzvi Freeman – CHABAD