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Shayna Goldberg
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Holding it all together

We sigh in relief at the quiet, and feel guilty recalling the suffering of others. We're engulfed by waves of fear, yet somehow find strength in it
IDF soldiers praying beside an APC (Wikimedia Commons via David Choresh)

Everyone I know is struggling to hold it together.

There is paralyzing worry about all the soldiers at the front. There is overwhelming pain about all the people who are gone. There is suffocating fear about rockets and infiltrations. There is unending apprehension about how things will unfold from here.

And all those emotions rage through us as we try to just get through the day.

As the citizens of Israel run between funerals, volunteering, shiva calls, and checking in on friends and neighbors, there is still food shopping that needs to get done, work calls that are happening, family members who need to eat and children not in school who themselves are struggling around the clock and need support and attention.

Whole neighborhoods have been emptied of men between 20 and 40+, and many mothers left at home have either moved in with each other or with their parents. On Shabbat, the women’s section of the beit knesset (synagogue) was swarming with small grandchildren who had all come to their saba and savta alone with their mothers. It was heartwarming and terribly painful all at once. Where are all their fathers?

There are so many things that need to be balanced right now, and it is exceedingly difficult to hold it all together. So many of the feelings and emotions contradict, and there are few minutes of quiet to even try to make sense of what we are experiencing.

A sigh of relief when a day has gone by without any rockets in our area is quickly replaced by guilt that others are suffering more than we are.

A slew of theological questions take a back seat as we pick up the siddur, double down on prayer and continue to sing that “we are believers, the children of believers.”

A wave of extreme, heart-stopping fear peaks, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, a little bit of strength rolls in.

A sense that only God is really in control is intertwined with the non-stop thoughts of what each of us should and could be doing to make a difference.

A craving for the more “regular” life that continues in Jewish communities around the world, knowing all the while that it is only here in Israel that we have our own army to defend us, and that it fights for the right to be Jewish everywhere.

A disbelief that such cruelty could exist while simultaneously in awe of the countless stories of unbelievable bravery, courage and true heroism.

A hope that this will all lead to something bigger and more meaningful, while wondering how all of the loss and mourning could ever possibly be worth it.

And when we don’t even know what we are feeling, it can be exceedingly hard to know what to think.

On Shabbat morning, my 10-year-old daughter turned to me and asked me if the children in Gaza are going to school. That was followed by, “Are they scared? I feel so sad for them, Ema.”

Her innocent questions, her humanity, her care, stirred something deep inside. Because sometimes it can feel too hard for me, her mother, to hold all these things together.

When is compassion misplaced, when is collateral damage justified, what does it really mean to understand and uproot evil and to genuinely value life? What does it take to live in this country, what does God want from us, what do we want from ourselves?

Prime Minister Golda Meir is reported to have said: “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons”.

We are trying to hold it together — physically, mentally, emotionally, religiously, ethically, morally.

There are moments we struggle, there are moments we fall apart, there are moments it is all too much. But we have no other choice.

Holding it together right now is our only real option.

We hold it together to give hope to our children, to give courage to our brave soldiers, to give strength to each other, to show our belief in this people and in this country, to gain favor in the eyes of our Maker, to maintain our humanity.

We are holding it together. Now we need God to hold us high.

“אבינו מלכינו, הרם קרן ישראל עמך”

“Our Father, Our King, raise high the pride of Israel, Your people.”

About the Author
Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: Womenandmitzvot.org and the author of the book: "What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life's Crossroads and in Everyday Living" (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliya in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut, Israel, with her husband, Judah, and their five children.
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