In memory of Sara Litton z"l

Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah, reminds us that the Jewish soul yearns for the Jewish people to live as a free nation in our land; our hearts are in Israel and belong to Jerusalem. We sing it on the cusp of Rosh Chodesh Iyar on Holocaust Memorial Day and later in Iyar on Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. It has been sung through the generations in times of great national pride and at the lowest points in our history.

Part of a longer poem written by Ukrainian poet Naftali Herz Imber in 1877, the lyrics proclaim “עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ” we have not lost hope. This phrase recalls the vision of the dry bones in Yechezkel (37:1-14), where God says to the navi, “these bones are the house of Israel, they are saying יָבְשׁוּ עַצְמוֹתֵינוּ וְאָבְדָה תִקְוָתֵנוּ, our bones are dried out and indeed, our hope is lost” (v.11). Hashem sends words of comfort that the bones will be brought back to life and set on their land, in Eretz Yisrael – וְנָתַתִּי רוּחִי בָכֶם וִחְיִיתֶם וְהִנַּחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם עַל־אַדְמַתְכֶם (v.14).

While often understood as a reference to the revival of the dead in Messianic times, it strongly depicts what seems like a vision of the Jews in the death camps of the Holocaust. People looked like walking skeletons, literally dry bones, which were then miraculously brought back to life and brought to Eretz Yisrael, soon to be Medinat Yisrael, after the horrors of the Shoah.

God promised to breathe a new spirit into His people. We came from the ends of the world and returned home to the Land of Israel, becoming more prosperous and numerous than our ancestors, fulfilling the verses Devarim (30: 3-5). The words of our prophets have been unfolding before us in years past and our eyes continue to witness the fulfillment of beautiful nevuot today. HaTikvah reminds us that our hope is not lost.

We are a people who hope. Even when by all reason and logic all hope should be lost, we continue to hope. Rabbi Sacks has taught that “optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope. The Hebrew Bible is not an optimistic book. It is, however, one of the great literatures of hope” (To Heal a Fractured World, p. 166).

Look at us now. We are still in the midst of war and tragedy, and we are valiantly living the prophecy. The vision of Zechariah has become a common occurrence, as we see older men and women sit in the streets of Jerusalem and the streets of the city are filled with boys and girls playing (Zechariah 8:4-5). The futuristic prophecy that concludes Amos has become the new normal as we sit around Shabbat tables and drink delicious wines made in Israel and enjoy tasty fruits from local “blue and white” orchards. We have rebuilt what was once desolate (Amos 9:14).

It takes courage and we need to be brave to continue to hope. We hope for the return of our hostages. We hope to hear the sounds of joy and the bringing of Thanksgiving offerings in celebration (Yirmiyahu 33:10-11). We hope for our sons and daughters to return to safety, to return from the fighting the enemy.

There is hope for our future- וְיֵשׁ תִּקְוָה לְאַחֲרִיתֵךְ -may our tears cease and the sound of our cries come to an end (Yirmiyahu 31:16-17).

We hope for those injured to heal in mind, body and spirit, for those not able to live in their houses to once again return home, and we hope for divine protection for all of our precious soldiers and all citizens of Israel. We hope to see Hashem’s involvement so clearly that we will say “Behold this is our God; we hoped to Him that he would save us; this is Hashem to Whom we hoped; let us be glad in His salvation (Yeshayahu 25:9).”

We continue to hope that we will witness the evildoers destroyed (Tehillim 37:34). The mizmor which “prepared” us for this war (Tehillim 27) – which we said for 40 days up until Simchat Torah, reminded us to have courage and hope. Hope to God, strengthen yourself to be brave and once again, hope to God – ‘קַוֵּה אֶל ה’ חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ וְקַוֵּה אֶל ה .

May our hope of 2,000 years continue to burn strongly within us; Our hope is not lost.

עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם

May we celebrate our freedom in our land, the land whose heart is in Jerusalem;

לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם

And we hope to continue to rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her; to all who love her and all who mourned her (Yishayahu 66:10), we hope to witness Jerusalem in all of her glory, speedily in our days. For we are courageous people, we continue to hope.

Adina Ellis is a graduate of the Matan Bellows Eshkolot Educators Institute. She has been teaching Tanakh and machshava over the last two decades, initially on college campuses and in Hebrew Schools in the New Jersey area. Since making aliyah in 2005, she has given weekly shiurim in Hebrew and English to women in her community. Adina has taught in the ALIT program and Rosh Chodesh seminars run by the OU Women's Initiative as well as in the mother-daughter "learn and art" program of OU Israel. She is known for her unique ability to facilitate in-depth textual learning along with engaging and relevant discussions. Adina lives with her husband and children in Yad Binyamin.