“This is the law when two men fight and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist: If the victim doesn’t die, but only becomes bedridden, and later gets up and walks under his own power, then the one who struck him shall be held blameless. Still, he must pay for the victim’s loss of work, and he must provide for his complete cure." (Exodus 21:18–19) . . . the sick man would provide a cure for the herb

Every Shabbat, Rav Shalom Yosef, eldest son of Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin, who became the Rebbe in Sadigora for the first year after the passing of his father (until he himself passed away), would have an elder chassid retell some of the wisdom of Rav Baruch of Mezhibuzh, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. Once he was told in the name of Rav Baruch’l (as he was called) an explanation of the verse, “. . . he must provide a complete cure [in Hebrew, v’rapo yerapei)”. He said that the (medicinal) herb would provide a cure for the sick man, and the sick man would provide a cure for the herb. Rav Shalom Yosef explained:

“When G‑d decrees that a man must undergo suffering, the sufferings are enjoined to strike him at a particular time, and to cease at a particular time by way of a particular person and in response to a particular cure.” (Talmud, Avoda Zarah 55a)

Why are a person’s sufferings decreed to occur in a particular way? It is all for the sake of the herb that has to find its tikkun (rectification) by healing the man. When Adam fell from his lofty spiritual level as a result of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, many sparks were toppled and fell below. Every act of eating or drinking serves to restore these sparks to the place where they belong, and thus to bring the world ever closer to perfection.

But how can an herb which is bitter and poisonous find its tikkun? When it is the appropriate cure for a certain ill man, and he takes it with the proper intentions. Then the tikkun is effected and the herb is redeemed. That is what the sages meant, “by way a of particular person”—referring to the sick person. As Rav Baruch’l said, “the ill man heals the herb.”

Similarly, the Baal Shem Tov once explained the nature of divine providence and the way in which fallen holy sparks are returned to their Source: These people are not traveling for the purpose they think. They are actually on a mission from G‑d . . .

“People will travel halfway around the world in pursuit of wealth. The more they endeavor, the more it seems to them that they are indeed acquiring the wealth they desire. But, in truth, it doesn’t work like that.

“These people are not traveling for the purpose they think. They are actually on a mission from G‑d, and on the way to fulfill His will—even if they don’t know it. They are making rectifications in G‑d’s world, and all of their travels and efforts are only for this purpose.

“It is possible that a man could travel to some distant land simply to make a meal of a particular loaf of bread, or to slake his thirst from a certain jug of water that he needs for the tikkun of his soul. The bread may be in one country and he in another, but he must partake of it. Or perhaps he needs to take a sip of water from a particular place, and drink it with a certain intent . . . all this is known only to the Creator. Therefore a man might have to travel thousands or even tens of thousands of miles, to complete in himself that which is not yet whole.

“It also occurs that a person will take an attendant with him on one of his journeys, and in reality the whole trip is only for the purpose of the attendant being able to partake of a particular slice of bread or a sip of the water from a certain place. In reality, the master doesn’t need to make the trip at all, but the attendant does. Since the attendant might be a poor man without the funds to make the trip, G‑d sends the master on business, and he takes the attendant along.”

[First published by Binyomin Adilman in B’Ohel Hatzadikim, Mishpatim 5760]