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Chapter Fifty-Six

Circles within circles, agendas built upon agendas, and once again the world is busy with our minuscule piece of land. Death stalks the streets of our holy Yerushalayim; the blood and flesh of our brethren are embedded in its walls.

What has a Yid ever wanted from this material world? Just to be allowed to daven, to build a sukkale, to chap a moment to learn a page of Gemara. We’ve never sought power or wanted to convince others of our point of view; we’ve just wanted to serve Hashem. Yet we have bombs in Yerushalayim and bullets in Bnei Brak. So many tears have been spilled; the pain is constant, and the ache never recedes. We want peace so badly, but we get hate in its stead.

This exile seems to stretch out so long, and our hearts find it harder to bear each day. We will never be privy to the whys and wherefores of what has been happening — it’s beyond human understanding, just as it is beyond our comprehension how we have continued to exist as a people until now. But one thing is certain: we will survive, and we will find comfort in our Torah. This is vouchsafed by the Creator, by the one true Father Who took us as His children.

But children get frightened and cry, they lose heart, become intimidated, and sometimes, when they are very frightened, they even give up. What does a broken neshama, a despairing soul, do when everything around him seems alight with the fire of fear and hate? He turns to those who came before him, who faced the same types of fears and somehow triumphed.

King David is a great example to us all. He suffered so much, yet through his pain he found the prophetic wisdom to leave us poetic inspiration.

Psalm 56 was written at one of the most disheartening junctures in David’s eventful life. David fled his homeland because Shaul was convinced that he was his mortal enemy. David thought he had found refuge at last with the Philistine king Achish, only to learn that the king’s bodyguard was none other than Yishbi, brother of the slain giant Golias, David’s infamous nemesis. David was now a dispossessed man, wanted in his homeland and in fearful danger in this strange and hostile environment. He cried and prayed, doing so with an intuition of what his future brethren would have to go through.

For the Conductor, a michtam by David, when the Philistines held him captive in Gat, and he felt like a muted dove far away [from safety]. The phrase yonas eilim rechokim, “a muted dove far away,” can be interpreted more figuratively as an instrument with a sound similar to the cooing of doves. But Rashi focuses on its plain meaning and tells us that this describes David’s situation of a hunted man far away from his home, trapped and silenced by fear.

David is speaking from the heart. He is describing what it feels like to be lost and bewildered by the constant onslaught of tribulation. Alone in a foreign land that now threatens him with bristling revenge, he speaks of the sweet dove, that ancient symbol of peace, so tormented that it is silenced.

Who among us does not feel a kinship with David in his plight? Since the beginning of this bitter exile we have been like that sweet dove, flying from one place to the next, never really secure, too frightened to speak.

God! Have mercy on me! People want [to kill] me. The warrior oppresses me constantly. We are surrounded by those who actually crave the moment when the Jews will disappear. They don’t say it, but the yearning is there. As for the open haters, the “warriors,” they seem ever ready not only to exclude us from their society, but to revel in the oppression they force upon us.

Those who stalk me constantly seek my destruction, wrongly assuming Hashem is against me. The enemies of our people do not weary. Day in, day out, they seek to cause us pain. Sometimes we think the worst is over, that things have changed and the world has come to terms with our survival. Then a new “cause” arises, and the “spokesmen” are back with the same hate, the same desire to hurt us.

On a day of mounting fear, I place my trust in You instead. To the rest of the world, it may seem as bright and cheerful as daylight, but beneath this veneer the souls of Hashem’s beloved children bleed. At the darkest moments, Jews always turn to the one certainty that is theirs: Hashem is with us, even in the dungeons of hatred, and He will never let us fall.

I praise [even] the stern word of the God. I place my trust in God and will not fear what mortal beings can do to me. Even in times when we are subject to Hashem’s strict judgment and this antagonism is somewhat deserving, still we turn to Him, as an errant child to a loving parent. We refuse to disconnect ourselves from His Torah. Come what may, we trust that He still loves us.

Because of them, everything I say is sad and anguished. They think only evil thoughts about me. They gather together in ambush. They follow my tracks hoping for my death. Worried and oppressed, we trudge forward. We are such a small and minute proportion of the world’s population, yet they watch our every step. They want us to stumble so that they can grab our souls and feel vindicated in their hatred for us.

You have counted my wanderings. Place my tears in Your flask. Haven’t You counted them? We know, we truly know, that Hashem counts every one of the slings and arrows thrown at us. He feels our pain and knows what we suffer. Chassidim tell of a sea of tears in the highest realm of Heaven. It is comprised of every tear ever shed by Hashem’s beloved nation. They are all there, sacred and guarded by the souls of our greatest tzaddikim. The flask David speaks of is the turbulent sea of Jewish tears that waits to be calmed.

On the day I call, my enemies will retreat. With this, I will know that God is with me. Yidden! Remain focused! Don’t let the smoke and debris get to you. David says it so clearly: “I know that God is with me.”

I trust God. I will not be afraid of what man can do to me. These are powerful words spoken by someone facing a terrible threat of death. David tells his enemies, “I have placed my trust in Hashem. You may try to do your worst, but it makes no difference, for the outcome is all in Hashem’s hands. If I am to die, I will die trusting that this, too, is His will.” Once you have given over your life to Hashem, what can man do?

Yes, we live in times clouded by the hatred others harbor for us. This is how it has always been. It’s all part of our growth, for with this challenge we become more aware of our true role in this life. Hashem will be with us, and this, too, has always been the case. Ours is a new yet ancient test. We must allow ourselves to be guided by Hashem’s will, and never, not ever, lose heart.


Text Copyright © 2008 by Torah.org.


 






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