Often in life, we face huge challenges: threats to ourselves, our families, and even the survival of our people. At these times, it seems natural to be afraid, maybe very afraid.
But we learn that we need to have faith in place of fear.
.אַל תִּירָא מִפַּחַד פִּתְאם וּמִשּׁאַת רְשָׁעִים כִּי תָבא
.עֻצוּ עֵצָה וְתֻפָר. דַּבְּרוּ דָבָר וְלא יָקוּם. כִּי עִמָּנוּ אֵל
“Be not afraid of sudden terror, neither of the destruction of the wicked, when it cometh. (Proverbs 3:25) Take counsel together, and it shall be brought to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand; for God is with us. (Isaiah 8:10)”
It’s interesting that faith and fear are incompatible and they cannot coexist. Where one is, the other is not. Just like the light chases away the darkness, so too does faith expel fear from our lives. When we believe that G-d is in charge of everything that happens, and that he loves us and ultimately wants what is good of us then what is there for us to fear?
At my bar mitzvah, my father spoke to me in front of our relatives and friends about the phrase from the end of Adon Olam:
אֲדֹנָי לִי וְלֹא אִירָא
“The L-rd is with me, I will not fear!”
This was a critical life lesson from surviving the Holocaust, the Great Depression, and so much more that he wanted me to have as I embarked on my own adulthood. “Coincidentally”, around the same time, Rabbi Abraham Farkas, who taught me my bar mitzvah Torah and Haftorah readings, ended our final session together with the following life lesson for me from Psalms 34:14:
ס֣וּר מֵ֭רָע וַעֲשֵׂה־טֹ֑וב
To always, “turn away from evil, and [choose to] do good.”
These two lessons go intimately together, and they are in many ways the very essence of life. As we go through our life’s journey, we can’t cower or run in fear, and neither can we wait for a miracle. Rather, we have to do our part to fight evil, falsehood, and wrongdoing. If we have faith, boldly face up to the challenges, and do what’s right then G-d will truly be there to hold our hand, protect us, and fight for us!
.וְעַד זִקְנָה אֲנִי הוּא. וְעַד שיבָה אֲנִי אֶסְבּל .אֲנִי עָשיתִי וַאֲנִי אֶשּא וַאֲנִי אֶסְבּל וַאֲמַלֵּט
“Even to old age I am the same, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear; yea, I will carry, and will deliver.” (Isaiah 46:4)
No matter in what danger we find ourselves and no matter how scared we feel, we are not alone. The Master of the Universe is watching over us, waiting for us to raise our eyes to the heavens in faith, and to take a stand and do what’s right. If we do, then G-d will manifest himself to us and indeed “will carry, and will deliver” us. Just like in this week’s parsha Veyeitzei, our forefather, Jacob, saw the ladder connecting heaven and earth with the angels ascending and descending on it, a vivid portrayal of G-d intimately connected with us and through His divine providence in every aspect of our lives.
From the ashes of the Holocaust, the State of Israel today is established and stands firm, and we find ourselves in the throes of redemption with Mashiach right around the corner. As we approach the fulfillment of the prophecies of the End of Days, the lessons of my father and Rabbi Farkas, of faith over fear and good over evil, will never be more important for me, and I believe, for us all.