Rabbi Avi Shafran
Easily lost in the whirlwind of worry, shock and mourning generated by the current onslaught against Jews in Israel is the significant thought that we must feel gratitude as well.
It is admittedly hard to see a bright side, and certainly to find feelings of thankfulness, when vicious attacks against innocent Jewish men, women and children take place daily, and are greeted with glee by communities consumed with hatred.
But other things, too, have been transpiring in the Jewish land - or, perhaps better put, not transpiring. And for those, we must say with heartfelt feeling, "Baruch Hashem!" ("Praised be G-d!").
Yesterday (as this is being written, on August 29), Israeli police units prevented "a very serious attack" in Beersheba by intercepting three Palestinian residents of Gaza carrying explosives.
Four days earlier, a Palestinian who approached an Israeli army post near the Egyptian border "in a suspicious manner" and was shot was found to be carrying a bomb.
That same day, three Palestinians were found near the village of Kalkilia carrying explosives and weapons.
Two days before that, an IDF force caught three Palestinians in the act of placing a bomb near the community of Shavei Shomron.
A day earlier, a bomb exploded beneath a car parked near Israeli police offices in Jerusalem's "Russian Compound"; no one was hurt.
Two days prior, the Israeli Security Agency arrested two Palestinians on their way to carry out a suicide bombing at a Haifa nightclub.
Also on that very day, a Palestinian and his two children were killed when a bomb he was preparing exploded prematurely.
Three days earlier, two Palestinians were arrested before they were able to plant the large bomb they were carrying in Haifa.
Few if any of those events made the evening news or The New York Times. The stories that lead, of course, are the ones "that bleed," and there have been all too many of those, may G-d spare His people any more. The stories above, though, Baruch Hashem, lacked the requisite loss of innocent lives (with the tragic exception of the two Palestinian children).
What is worth pondering is that there has been an almost constant stream of non-stories like the sampling above - unsuccessful attempts at terror, prematurely detonated bombs, intercepted terrorists, prevented tragedies. We have mourned the terrible losses of Jewish lives when evil people have managed to bring their evil plans to fruition. Shouldn't we also express deep gratitude to G-d when He frustrates their intentions?
To be sure, the soldiers or civilians who notice the abandoned package or odd behavior are to be heartily credited for their alacrity. But we know all too tragically well that determined terrorists can fairly easily evade detection. And so when one is caught before he can wreak havoc, the truly Jewish response is to thank not only those who did the actual catching but, above all, the One who allowed them to do so.
In fact, there may be other frustrated plots of which we know nothing. The celebrated Jewish Sage the Vilna Gaon is said to have once been challenged about a verse in Psalms that calls on the nations of the world to praise G-d. "What sort of special praise can other nations offer than we Jews cannot?" he was asked. His response: Only they know the plans they pursued to harm us that were never exposed and never reached fruition. When the Messiah arrives and the nations realize that we were indeed chosen by G-d, they will praise Him for having prevented them from executing their designs.
The very word "Jew" derives from the name "Judah", which the Talmud teaches is rooted in Judah's mother Leah's declaration that she was the beneficiary of "more than my share" of blessing. That humility, that refusal to take blessings for granted, that deep sense of gratitude to G-d, is central to the Jewish soul. Which is why "Baruch Hashem" is so common a refrain for so many Jews.
Rosh Hashana approaches. It is a time when, our tradition teaches, we "coronate" the King of kings. That encompasses much, to be sure: repentance, prayer and commitment.
But it includes no less what any benevolent king's subjects should constantly feel: deep and abiding gratitude.
We Jews are all praying that there be no need for us to fear or mourn in the future. Perhaps a merit toward the realization of that prayer lies in the gratitude we express for all the kindnesses of which we are beneficiaries - those we read about as well as those we never discover.
We might all consider getting into the habit of saying Baruch Hashem.
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.