Waiting for the bus this morning I met a woman who asked me something very quickly in Hebrew. I only identified one word in the whole sentence, so I just looked at her and nodded. “Mah?” she asked. (what?)
Well, my cover was blown. Most olim are familiar with this scene. Someone asks you something in Hebrew that you don’t understand so you just nod and smile hoping that is the appropriate response for whatever they just said. Most of the time it isn’t and you end up looking more stupid than if you had just told them that you don’t understand.
So, I just responded by telling her that my Hebrew isn’t very good to start with and I just returned from a trip abroad and so I’ve forgotten a lot of my Hebrew.
I wish I could say that her response was unique, but I have gotten similar responses during conversations with Israelis when we’ve gotten into conversations about why I made aliyah from America. She asked, “Why did you come back from abroad during a war?”
How do you answer such a question?
I told her that there is no more important time to return to your home than in the middle of a war, that this is my home, and that my family lives here. I told her that I have two sons in the Israeli army, and I can’t imagine thinking I would be safer abroad than here, in Israel, where I belong.
Today has been an interesting day – there was a terrorist bus bombing in Tel Aviv, rockets landed near Beit Shemesh, and I am constantly listening in case a siren should go off.
But where better to be than the place that G-d told the Jewish people they were supposed to live? And besides, there’s no such thing as safety, anyway.
Safety is an illusion.
People die in “safe” America everyday – in assaults, in car accidents, and quite a lot of unique and creative ways. Ask any police officer if it is possible to completely burglar-proof your home. It’s not. If they are determined they will break in and if someone is determined to take your life, they will find a way.
So if there is no such thing as safety and everyone is vulnerable all the time, how do people live?
There are two concepts that come into play when humans have to deal with adversity. The first one is compartmentalization, that is, we recognize that there is an element of danger, we evaluate its relevancy and then we file it away in a part of our brain earmarked for that category. And the second one is resilience or our ability to deal with, learn from and bounce back from trauma. One of the biggest factors in resilience is faith.
Faith, or emunah in Hebrew, is the biggest factor in a person’s ability to handle and bounce back from adversity. Emunah, is more than just a belief in G-d, it’s a trust that this G-d who created the Universe, has a plan, has access to more information than we do and that He only gives us that which we need to make us healthy and whole human beings.
But faith in Judaism isn’t blind faith, it’s based on past experience. When I come up to a chair and sit down in it, I am expressing my faith that the chair will hold me, that’s why I put all my weight into the chair…thousands of times throughout my life I have sat in a chair and it has supported my weight. So, I come up to a chair and put all my faith, in this case my weight, in the chair because I have past experiences that tell me that a chair will hold my weight.
So, when we look at all that G-d has done for us as the Jewish people, we can put all our faith, all our weight as it were, in the fact that He will continue to protect the Jewish people as a whole, and us as individuals.