We have an inner vault
Last Friday, a few minutes before candle-lighting time, I received a phone-call from someone whom I hadn’t known very well until then. He is going through a very difficult time; a series of travails have come upon him, and he asked me for “a few strengthening words so that I will be able to get through Shabbat with joy.” I ignored the fast-approaching Shabbat – as well as the Shabbos clock, the hot water urn and the electric hotplate – to the best of my ability and focused on him and on what he was saying.
The more he described all his troubles and listed them, the more I found myself shrinking at what I was hearing. It was very hard to listen to him; very hard to understand how one relatively young person can cope with all of this on his own. He also voiced – though very delicately – his hard feelings vis-à-vis Hashem; he raised questions that no human being has answers for. When he finished telling me everything, I searched within myself for words of hope and strength but couldn’t find any.
“I’m not sure I have what to say to you,” I told him honestly. “I am listening hard; I’m really feeling your pain, but I can’t find words that will give you strength.”
“So just tell me a story about your grandfather, something about chassidim in Russia who had to cope with troubles,” he replied, and all at once connected me to my roots and source, to the power of the generations.
“Listen, my friend,” I said. “I have no words that can strengthen you, but I can say that you have within you a treasure-vault of power and strength that you inherited from your forefathers. The contents of this vault are enough to give you the energy to cope, head held high, and even remain joyful. Our ancestors did not leave us a legacy of piles of gold and silver, nor of real estate and stocks, but they did leave us the legacy of being able to pick up our heads and continue on, under any conditions. Yes, even when it is very difficult, even when there are difficult questions, doubts and grievances against the Alm-ghty. They knew to continue onward and therefore we can do so too.
The simple Jewish faith was not affected when there were difficulties, and there were plenty, we know, in every generation.
This morning, with our dead from the terrible catastrophe in Meiron not yet buried, with our joy turned to sorrow, with the shock hitting us and the pain so overwhelming, when the questions come up and the lights have seemingly gone out, I remember those words of my friend from last Friday, how he connected himself and me in an instant to the sources of power and strength that we have inherited from our forefathers, and I know that we are strong even when we are weak. Because we believe even when we have no words, because we are believers, descendants of believers.
Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski