If the mitzvos are the fruit of the Tree of Life, then the waters that feed that tree are our emuna, faith in Hashem. As the Kotzker used to say, “The hand does, but the head remains in Heaven!” Emuna is the internal beacon which is always focused on Hashem. It is He Who is the sole arbitrator and dispenser of our hopes and needs. We may well do, but the blessing flows from Heaven, as Hashem sees fit. We are living in times that call for utmost resolve. In our Holy Land people are bewildered by the horrific events that surround them. Those of us in the Diaspora feel so inept. We want to do something, anything, yet we find ourselves inadequate. Hashem is calling us to reaffirm our emuna at the deepest of levels, and we must ask ourselves if we are up to this holy call.
There are those who will march and demonstrate, while others will write letters to the powers that be. All of this is important when designated by our Gedolei HaTorah, but these are the hands and the feet. What of the heart, the soul, or, as the Kotzker said, “the head”? The Yid who is the “emuna Yid” knows that all of this is coming from Hashem, and we must keep a diligent eye open to discover what His Will is for us now.
There is that place within each of us that is vulnerable. We are Hashem’s children, and like any child, we are sometimes frightened. We can resolve these fears only when we admit to them and work toward resolving them. The Rav of Zadonska-Vola once complained to the Kotzker Rebbe over the death of his daughter, who had died in the bloom of youth. The father could not understand why such a thing should have happened to his child.
Instead of answering him, the Rebbe raised a question from the Talmud. Immediately the Rav of Zadonska-Vola answered the question. Once more the Kotzker raised a difficulty: “If it’s as you say, then we have a question on the Tosafos commentary.” After some thought, the Rav also solved this problem. The Kotzker continued to raise question after question, and the Rav of Zadonska-Vola continued to answer these difficulties with great insight.
Finally, the Kotzker said to him, “You see, Rav of Vola? There are answers to every question. Surely, then, there is an answer to the question you raised concerning the Master of all that happens. If the Talmud is right, and Rashi is right, and Tosafos are right – surely the Holy One, blessed is He, is also right!”
The martyr and tzadik, the Rebbe of Piaseczna, zt”l, wrote down the drashos he gave during the darkness that was the Warsaw Ghetto. These were left for us in the sefer Eish Kodesh. In the drasha he delivered on February 14,1942, he begins a discussion of the Talmudic passage in Brachos (3a) which describes how Rabbi Yosi entered one of the ruins of Yerushalayim in order to daven. The Gemara tells us that he heard a bas kol, a Divine Voice, saying, “Woe to Me, for I have destroyed My house, burned My Temple and exiled My children.” The Piaseczna Rebbe asks why Rabbi Yosi heard this Divine Voice only in the ruins. We must listen to his answer, and listen well.
“Now a Jew who is tormented by his afflictions thinks that he alone suffers, as if all his personal afflictions and those of all of Bnei Yisrael do not affect Hashem, G-d forbid. Yeshaya the prophet said, In all their troubles He was troubled,’ and Chazal tell us, When a person suffers, what does the Shechina say? “My head is too heavy for Me, My arm is too heavy for Me.” ‘ When a Yid is afflicted Hashem suffers, as it were, much more than the person does. It may be that since He, blessed be He, is not subject to any limitation, for which reason no conception of Him is possible in this world, therefore His suffering from Israel’s troubles is also boundless. It is not merely that it would be impossible for a person to endure the experience of such great suffering, but even to conceive of His suffering, blessed be He, – to know that He, blessed be He, does suffer, to hear His Voice, blessed be He, saying, Woe, for I have destroyed My house and exiled My children’- is impossible, because He is beyond the confines of the human. It was only when Rabbi Yosi entered one of the ruins of Yerushalayim and was lifted out of his self-centered existence that he was able to truly connect to Hashem in the face of the actual holy remnants, and he heard the Voice of the blessed Holy One.”
Yidden, do you hear? Precisely because Hashem is infinite, His suffering is infinite and beyond human conception. In Yiddish there is a saying, Der velt iz nisht hefker! “The world is not gratuitous!” The rivers of tears shed by pained Yidden are like a mere trickle compared to the ocean that is Hashem’s suffering. He stands with us at every street crossing and knows our fears. There is a reason, and the questions do have answers. On March 14, 1942, the Pieseczna wrote, “Hashem is to be found in His inner chambers weeping, so that one who pushes in and comes close to Him by means of living in a Torah way weeps together with Him and lives Torah with Him. Only this makes the difference, for the weeping and pain a person undergoes by himself, alone, may have the effect of breaking him and bringing him down so that he becomes incapable of doing anything. But the weeping a person does together with Hashem strengthens him. He weeps, and is strengthened; he is broken, but finds courage to study and teach. It is hard to raise one’s self up, time and again, from the tribulations, but when one is determined, stretching his mind to connect with Hashem, then he enters the inner chambers where the blessed Holy One is to be found; he weeps and wails together with Him, as it were, and finds the strength to study and serve Him.”
One reads these words with utter humility. They were said by a Yid who would soon die al kiddush Hashem. He had already lost his entire family, yet he spoke of Divine weeping and hoped that Yidden would connect their tears with those of Hashem. This is all so far beyond us, who have been raised in other times and places. Yet we find a beacon that lights the path for all generations.
Our Gedolei HaTorah have asked us to unite and recite specific psalms that have a unique resonance for today’s problems. We understand that kapitel 83 was written when the land of our forefathers was attacked by a large number of enemies. The psalmist shows us that these attackers’ ultimate desire was not merely to destroy Israel, but to obliterate the name of G-d from the face of the earth.
Ki hinei oyvecha yehemayun…, “For behold, Your enemies are in uproar, and those who hate You have lifted up their head.” One sure way of grabbing the world’s attention is by creating noise. Every time Yidden have suffered it has been at the hands of loud noisemakers who captivate the world’s attention by creating a sense of edginess. This allows the “silent haters” to pick up their heads, and they can soon be seen jumping on the bandwagon. Al amecha yaarimu sod…, “Against Your people they plot deceitfully, and they conspire against those sheltered by You.” Throughout history it has always been the same. Those who plot against us do so with deceit. Today we see them creating images that are not real, using so-called facts that have no basis. This is how evil works, through trickery and mirage.
Ki noatzu lev yachdav…, “For they conspire together with a unanimous heart, against You they make a covenant.” It is astounding! People who have nothing in common will join together when it comes to beating down the Jews. Left, middle of the road, demagogue, democrat, it makes no difference. When it comes to us they all stand together. This is why we can’t ask questions. There are so many facets to this hate, where could one start? There is but one unifying aspect. Those who hate us do so as a rebellion against Hashem.
Asher amru nirsha lanu…, “Who said, Let us inherit for ourselves the pleasant habitations of G-d.” They want that place, that spiritual plane that is Hashem’s. They think that by uprooting His children, they will be able to take this space.
Yeivoshu veyibahalu adei ad…, “Let them be ashamed and terrified forever; and let them be humiliated and perish. Then they will know that You, Whose Name is Hashem, are alone, the Most High over all the earth.” Hashem sits on His Throne, in that most holy inner place, and He will save us. His weeping will end with His enemies’ humiliation. They will have much to be ashamed of, and most of all for the pain they caused Hashem and His children.
We need to take heart now and connect with Hashem through our service to Him. We can enter His sanctuary, share in His tears, and then soon rejoice with the answers that will surely come.