After the fast
After the fast

Challenges, difficulties and even tragedies in personal and national life are, to a very great extent, unavoidable and in many cases not even preventable. Because of this, the test in life becomes not only how did one deal with the problem but rather how did one recover after the problem proved so devastating. The key to recovery from sad occurrences is therefore resilience – the ability to bounce back even after loss and defeat.

King Solomon in Proverbs defines the righteous person as someone who, even though he or she has fallen seven times, is still capable of rising again. In a sense he is describing evil and bad behavior in terms of an addiction from which one is unable to free one's self and remains hopelessly mired in the pit of one's misery and evil.

In our modern world we have devised a vocabulary for such resilience. We call it rehabilitation, remission or recovery. All these words describe the ability to rebound from defeats and depression, bad behavior and destructive habits, and to attempt to build a new and better life for one's self. Modern society has invested a great deal of effort, and money to help aid people to recover and rehabilitate themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yet, it is obvious to all that unless the person himself or herself really intends to get better and stronger, much of this expenditure will be of little avail. The old joke was that it only takes one psychiatrist to change a light bulb but that light bulb has to want to be changed. I believe the truth of this adage is fairly self-evident.

There is no question that we have received heavenly aid in accomplishing and achieving the grandeur that we see before our eyes today, in the Jewish state and in the Jewish world, but the light bulb wanted to be changed...
The Jewish people are currently engaged in a time of rehabilitation and recovery both in terms of the calendar year and in the current stage of our long and often difficult history. After the fast day of mourning on the ninth day of Av come seven weeks of resilience and rehabilitation. One of the great aspects of Jewish history has been that the characteristic of resilience which has always existed amongst us as a people and as individuals.

We always wanted to rise out of the pits of despair and persecution and become a strong and vibrant people, faithful to the Torah and Jewish values. This power of resilience has, perhaps, never been exhibited as clearly as it has been over the past century of Jewish experience. After the Holocaust we were literally left for dead in the eyes of much of the world and even in the eyes of many Jews as well.

And what was true regarding the Jewish people generally was doubly true regarding the fate of religious observance and Torah study within Jewish society. The power of resilience, which has rebuilt the Jewish people over the past 75 years, has also enabled us to rebuild ourselves spiritually and create a scholarly observant and self-confident mass of Jews that look forward to a strong future and better times.

There is no question that we have received heavenly aid in accomplishing and achieving the grandeur that we see before our eyes today, in the Jewish state and in the Jewish world.

Again, one must acknowledge that the light bulb wanted to be changed. Without that desire it could not have happened. Judaism always views life in society as a partnership, so to speak, between the Creator and humans. The rabbis in the Talmud phrased it correctly: “In the path that one wishes to go, that is the path that Heaven guides him upon.“ If we wish to be resilient and strong, then God, so to speak, will help us to be that way.

If we feel powerless to help ourselves and always wait for others to somehow save us from ourselves and our problems then we are doomed to remain weak and impotent. The Torah community after World War II was rebuilt by the efforts and sacrifices of individuals who were committed, body and soul, to the realization of that task.

The state of Israel was created, defended, stabilized and developed by the dint of total commitment and great sacrifice. On the part of many viewing our Jewish world today, it is obvious that what has been achieved – and a great deal has been achieved – is due to the help of Heaven as well as the efforts of humans. It is the prime example of this eternal partnership that guarantees the future of the Jewish people and, with it, all of humanity.