Oy - A Tzoro
Have you ever been oif tzoros? It's a prominent Yiddish aphorism that means "in trouble." If your mother gave you some shopping money and you lost it in a bad bet then you are oif tzoros. If your wife caught you drinking with friends while you claimed to be working late in the office then you are oif tzoros. On a more serious note, if you are trapped in one of life's many tight spaces - besieged by financial troubles, a traumatizing divorce, illness, or worse, death - then you are in the throes of a serious tzoro.
Growth flourishes most where challenge is most manifest.
The word tzoro, Hebrew for "trouble", is comprised of three Hebrew letters, tzadik, reish and hei. The letters tzadik and reish, which spell the word tzar, serve as the etymological root of the word tzoro. Tzar, which means "narrow" or "confined", is the root of tzoro because most tzoros consist of being constrained or trapped in the vise of life. Yet the word for trouble is not tzar, it is tzoro; the letter hei is appended to the end of the word.
The hei is one of the broadest letters in the Hebrew Alphabet; it has three dimensions - height, breadth and depth. The sound of the hei is a clear expulsion of breath with no vowels or consonants; an inaudible sigh that bespeaks contentment. The hei does not fit the general pattern of tzoro unto which it is appended. Its broadness and contentment are the very opposite of the tzoro's narrow straits.
Yet this is precisely where the hei belongs, for every tragedy is a harbinger of wonderful things to come. Growth flourishes most where challenge is most manifest. A teenager who rebels against his parents is not turning away; he is coming into his own. This young man will one day embrace his family from a position of strength rather than weak dependence, and then their relationship will truly flourish. But the teenager cannot grow without first weaning himself from his parents' warm embrace. To the parents this is tragic, but in the future this separation will be heralded as the moment growth began.
The last few months have seen a severe downturn in the financial markets; the credit crisis has forced many an established investment bank to its knees. Governments around the world are either speaking of or acting on bailout plans to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Every newscast features doomsayers that predict a depression the likes of which our generation has never seen. Energy prices are plunging, stocks are sliding and people the world over worry about losing their retirement funds and even their homes.
This oncoming depression has definitely landed us oif tzoros, but here we remember the hei of tzoro. Downturns are not all bad; on the contrary, they herald powerful upswings that eclipse all former peaks. Experts note that the market goes through phases of self-adjustment roughly every twenty years and that those who ride out the storm generally reap the benefits that follow.
This is of little comfort to those who stand to lose their homes, but the salient point is that the markets will turn around much quicker if the average person finds the courage to weather the storm. Storms are serious tzoros, but they are always followed by glorious sunshine. How long it will take for the sun to appear depends in large part on how well we weather the current storm, but when the sun finally shines, it will shine on us all - those who weathered the storm and those who suffered from it.
How long it will take for the sun to appear depends in large part on how well we weather the current storm.
Windows of Light
When Noach entered the ark, G-d instructed him to build a tzohar.(1) Our sages interpreted tzohar as a source of light - either a window or a gem of such brilliance that it lit up the ark.(2) Jewish mystics note that the Hebrew words tzohar and tzoro share etymological roots. Changing the letter sequence of the word tzoro transforms the tragic tzoro ("tragedy") into a brilliant tzohar ("source of enlightenment").(3) The ability to effect such transformation is embedded in the tragedy itself, because every tragedy contains seeds of growth; if only we learn to cultivate these seeds.(4)
These seeds are represented by the letter hei. Without the hei, tzoro is incompatible with tzohar. The addition of the hei makes them compatible. The hei, which represents the silver lining inherent in every cloud, was thus embedded by G-d into the word tzoro to enable its transformation into a tzohar.
In the ark, it was Noach's role to snatch survival from the jaws of death and thus turn the tzoro into a tzohar. In our times, we must do the same.
1) Genesis 6: 16.
2) See Rashi ibid. See also Bereishit Rabbah 31: 1.
3) Keter Shem Tov, 87 (Rabbi Yisrael Ben Eliezer, Founder of the Chassidic Movement, Medzeboz, Ukraine, 1698 – 1760)
4) See Ohr Hatorah, Ki Tavo, p. 1101 (R. Menachem M. Schneerson, Third Rebbe of Lubavitch, 1789-1866) that tzohar is linked to the word tzaharayim (midday), which denotes a light of such terrific magnitude that on that level G-d treats everyone, regardless of standing, with equal kindness and all places are equally illuminated - even those places that were previously shrouded in deep gloom.