Yidden are a sweet people, kind, considerate, and yes, trusting, especially trusting. How else can we explain the phenomenon of Jewish lay leaders falling all over themselves trying to impress those in secular power? After all, history has proven that they rarely remain true friends. Yet we continuously see people purporting to be speaking for us nudging up to those in authority, trying to schmooze them into being kind to the Jews. Unfortunately it’s all a sad pantomime, because it is doomed from the outset. We are meant for greater things, and we will be judged by different standards.
The nations of the world may be our friends one day and hate us the next. There will be no reason or rhyme. “Esav hates Yaakov” – we have to accept this axiomatic truth and bear it in mind. Amazingly, I am often surprised how many of those in power know this truth all too well. While dozy-minded dreamers go on missing the point, these pragmatists will be the first to tell you how much “the nations” of the world dislike us.
The difficulty in seeing and accepting this is not necessarily limited to those who are not committed to a Torah viewpoint. The actively religious are also sometimes blinded by this same trusting spirit. Yes, we must try to live with our neighbors in peace, as Avraham Avinu demonstrated through his hospitality. Yet he lived under no delusions. He told them, “I am a stranger, a resident in the land.” He was marking out a truism we should always relate to. Even as we become part and parcel of the society we find ourselves in, we must also be ever conscious of the fact that we are strangers.
We may very well sit down on a Shabbos summer afternoon to learn how we should “beware of rulers, for they befriend someone only for their own benefit; they act friendly when it benefits them, but they do not stand by someone in his time of need” (Avos 2:3). However, we are so trusting, we want so much to believe that everyone loves us, that we soon forget the facts we were so clearly taught.
There are those who will explain that the mishna of old was speaking of other times and places, while today we live in a modern, caring society where every man can feel wanted. When will they wake up to the truth? Call me naive, but let them explain why in so many freedom-loving countries there is a huge upsurge of anti-Semitism. Tell me why in the living rooms of the chattering classes we find those who form public opinion saying things about us that would never have been acceptable in the past. The wheel turns, and today’s hero is tomorrow’s bogeyman. Because we don’t always absorb what Chazal have taught us we are often doomed to repeating our past mistakes.
I share these thoughts not because I am a dire pessimist; far from it, I am a world-class optimist. However, being an optimist starts with an understanding of the realities involved. There is a difference between positive thinking and sleepwalking. When one knows what to expect, one can turn to where true deliverance lies. For us, this has always been Hashem. It is through His words that we can understand the whys and wherefores of our trials and tribulations, and through His words we can reach out for salvation.
David Hamelech understood this better than most, and he left us his psalms so we can utilize his experiences in coping with our own. Listen to this kapitel, let it marinate into your real awareness, and find the comfort it leads us to.
Ach el Elokim dumiya nafshi…, “Only from Hashem my soul waits in silence, from Him comes my deliverance.” David starts with a startling note: “Only” Hashem can be the Source of deliverance. Those who think otherwise can never wait in silence; their minds have no peace, no rest.
Ach hu tzuri viyshu’asi…, “Only He is my Rock and my Deliverance; my Stronghold, I will not be moved greatly.” The world can throw so much at you, but if you know in your heart that Hashem is your “Rock,” then that in itself is a liberation.
Ach miseiso ya’atzu lehadiach…, “Only because they fear his lofty position have they plotted to topple him; delighted in lies, with their mouth they bless him while inwardly they curse him.” History is replete with Jews who rose to high office only to be toppled by anti-Semitic haters. Sure, they smiled and greeted him each morning, but in their hearts they couldn’t abide the fact that this Jew was doing something important.
Did you ever notice how whenever someone from the Jewish world is written about in the press, the fact that he is a Jew is mentioned? In England there is a quaint wording that is used: “The son of an East-End trader.” Bang! This is a coded way of saying, “We are talking about those uppity Jews again.” The particular person may well have left behind all semblances of Yiddishkeit years ago, but it makes no difference; “they” know.
Al Elokim yishi ukevodi…, “Upon Hashem rests my deliverance and my honor, the Rock of my strength, my refuge is in Hashem.” In a world obsessed with honor and gain, a Yid must focus on the one real honor – that which is given through one’s attachment with Hashem. The Jewish heart can never be at ease if it doesn’t accept this as its destiny. Once we do accept it, nothing can move us.
Bitchu bo bechol eis…, “Trust in Him at all times, people; pour out your hearts before Him, Hashem is a refuge for us.” David shakes us; he cries out, “Don’t be misled, Yidden! Trust in Hashem not just sometimes, but all times! Let your doubts and your fears pour out to Him. He will give you strength and refuge that will be forever true.”
Ach hevel benei adam…, “But the sons of man are as nothing, and deceitful are men of distinction. If laid on the scales, they and their vanity would be equal.” This is a powerful message. Listen and allow its wisdom to enter your heart. All those strutting big shots are as nothing. As the saying goes, “Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrapping.” All the trappings of greatness may impress you, but it’s just a façade; it is vapor and soon dissipates.
Have you ever blown up a balloon? It grows bigger and bigger, but all it is, is hot air. One prick with life’s needle and it pops and disappears. How many figureheads have we seen being built up by the media only to be schlepped down by the wit of their own arrogance? Achieving high office without humility only spells downfall; in the end it implodes under the weight of its own self-delusion. We need never be jealous of such foolishness; it means nothing in real terms.
Al tivtechu be’oshek…, “Trust not in oppression, and in robbery do not put vain hope; if illegal wealth prospers let your heart pay it no heed.” It isn’t easy to stay honest and true to one’s morals in a society built on false values. “Everyone cheats a bit, it’s okay,” is not just a vertel, unfortunately it’s a way of life for many. David is telling us that we must not lose ourselves even when all about us the wealthy are dishonest. Ours is a derech, a pathway that leads us to a better and more wholesome place. If we allow ourselves to be led into the corruption of others, we will lose everything, both our place in this society and even worse, our place before Hashem.
There are moments in communal service to Hashem when one feels a special energy run through all those involved. Let me give an example. Last Simchas Torah I was dancing with my community and all of a sudden I felt as if the concentration of those about me had become galvanized and intensified. I can’t say why, such moments are beyond words, but for those few seconds (or was it longer?) everyone seemed to be connected in the magic of the song.
I didn’t want the time to pass, but like everything else in life, sadly it did. However, I was left astounded; the energy it injected within me just did not leave me.
Mind you, I had not been surrounded by heimishe chassidim. The dancers were a mixed group of baalei battim, some frum and others not yet so. No matter, we were spiritually bonded in that moment of song. And what were the words that we chanted over and over again? Yisrael betach baHashem!
Nothing more and nothing ever less.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Torah.org.