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We say after Shabbat every week:

שַׂמְּחֵנוּ כִּימוֹת עִנִּיתָנוּ שְׁנוֹת רָאִינוּ רָעָֽה

Make us happy (or let us rejoice) like the days when You afflicted us (or when we were suffering); the years when we saw evil

This seems like an absurd thing to say, as generally happiness is accompanied by goodness, not evil, by being treated well, not by being afflicted.

How to understand this?

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This is based on a posuk in Tehillim (90:15), where Rashi explains:

Cause us to rejoice according to the days that You afflicted us Cause us to rejoice in the days of our Messiah according to the number of days that You afflicted us in the exiles and according to the number of years that we experienced evil.

Refer also to the Gemara in Sanhedrin 99a, where this is applied to the 40 years in the midbar:

It is taught in another baraita: Rabbi Eliezer says: The messianic era will be forty years long. It is written here with regard to the forty-year sojourn of the children of Israel in the wilderness: “And He afflicted you, and suffered you to hunger and fed you with manna” (Deuteronomy 8:3); and it is written there: “Make us glad according to the days that You afflicted us, the years that we saw evil” (Psalms 90:15).

See also the sefer "ביאור ספר תהלים".

but the matter speaks of the days of the Messiah, which will be at least the amount of the days and years of the exile that were days of torture and evil to Israel

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  • Sorry, I still don't get it, could you summarise?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30 at 20:29
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    The sources explain that the amount of time we spent in exile, are being, in the Messianic Era, equaled. So, this is why the Gemara says the messianic era will be 40 years (according to Rabbi Eliezer), because we sojourned in the midbar for 40 years. So, maybe we pray to G-d that our salvation will be at least more than our exile.
    – Shmuel
    Mar 30 at 20:35
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    Got it. Thanks! If there are no more answers in a couple days, bli neder will accept.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30 at 20:36
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    Glad to be of help! A gute voch!
    – Shmuel
    Mar 30 at 20:37
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One approach has already been mentioned by @Shmuel, however, another mehalach is employed by the Alshich who says that every one of the days in which we were afflicted should be considered as a complete year of evil, and thus we beseech Hashem to repay us with a year of gladness for each day of suffering.

The Metzudos Dovid essentially says the same thing:

במנין הימים אשר ענית אותנו וכפי השנים אשר ראינו רעה וכפל הדבר במ"ש‎


I also just saw in the Artscroll commentary on Tehillim (vol. 2 p. 1130) the following:

In the preceding verse, the Psalmist implored Divine mercy during man's youth, in order to instill a positive attitude which will sustain him for the remainder of his life. Here the Psalmist continues: If, unfortunately, a man's youth turns out to be tragic and miserable, then at least make his old age glad to compensate for his early sorrow (Maharam Almosnino).

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  • Great. For the first, it's the same as Shmuel, but a different reckoning. I ask on both a new question: why are we only asking for limited happy days? Why not "make us happy forever" nu?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30 at 21:27
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    I think here it is not about asking for a life of happiness and wellbeing we are focusing on the difficult times and asking Hashem to cancel them out - refer to the approach of the Maharam Almosnino as per my edit.
    – Dov
    Mar 30 at 21:28

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