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End to Suffering

Pain management is a relatively new specialty in the medical field. In the United States, for example, pain medicine has not been recognized as an independent specialty until 2009. Although pain has been part of the human experience since the dawn of history, we have always regarded pain as a symptom of an illness. Treating pain was secondary to the goal of curing the illness – and if the treatment itself caused pain, well, that was a side effect that couldn’t be helped. It’s only recently that we have recognized that chronic pain is a disease in itself, which often remains even after the original illness is gone. Furthermore, many conditions can be managed but not cured completely – but this is not a reason to be resigned to a life of pain.

About one in four Americans suffer from chronic pain, which is the most common cause of long-term disability. In addition to the distress caused by the pain itself, it is usually also accompanied by psychological symptoms such as exhaustion, isolation, despair and even suicidal ideation. Depression and anxiety, in turn, intensify the sensation of pain, creating a vicious cycle. Many people suffer from so-called “functional” pain, meaning that their organs are all functioning normally and no physical source can be found for the pain.

Today doctors are far less likely to reassure patients that their pain is “all in the mind” and they need to simply buck up and endure it. The medical profession is now dedicating tremendous resources to understand and alleviate pain, regardless of its source.

How do we account for this about-face in medicine, which no longer regards pain as an inevitable, if unfortunate by-product of the human experience? One explanation could be that we now have more effective medications and technology to treat pain. But the development of more sophisticated pain treatment only came about because of a change in mindset.

We can suggest that the reason for this change is because somewhere up above, a decision has been reached that the time has come to end all pain, in all its forms. We are reaching the end of a very long road – and entering into the world of the future, the world of Redemption. A world in which G-d will “wipe the tears off every face,” and erase all painful memories of exile and persecution. A world in which every illness and disability will be cured. Then we will look back and recognize that our past pain served a purpose, because only through that pain were we able to achieve the great good of the Geulah. In fact, our joy in the future will be in proportion to our pain. Then we will turn to G-d and, with all sincerity, thank Him for our painful past – for it brought us to our glorious present.


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