Avi Baumol

Hoshana Nefesh Mibehala (Life from Chaos)

I don’t dream; I sleep and think of nothingness, my brain mercifully shutting off. But then I wake up at 4 a.m. and I remind myself of our situation. The fear returns, the worry, the uneasiness. I try to go back to sleep but it is a restless, fitful sleep. I get up and go to minyan because that is what we do, I pray to God but struggle with concentration. Today a friend davened and his pain poured out into the room, he struggled with the passages that speak of God as our protector, our defender. He wailed and whimpered and we with him, it was more powerful than Yom Kippur. I started making deals with God, but stopped.

I don’t want to listen to the news; I don’t want to speak with friends. I don’t want to get out of bed, nor do I want to stay in it and let my mind wander. I spent an hour watching a British baking show and appreciated the time escaping from the reality that we are living and then spent some time feeling guilty for having done that. I feel guilty thinking only about the safety of my family and not the entire country. I feel uneasy, a vertigo.

Every few seconds another notification comes into my phone, my watch, more updates, misery. I force myself to not look and be swept up in the pain of the country at every minute; then, after some time, I force myself to look at all of them at once, like a fighter getting punch after punch to the gut, on the ropes, biding time, waiting for the onslaught to stop, to move around, to breathe again.

The fear is crippling; terrorists produce terror, it insidiously seeps through every pore, every rational mind. I must combat it, fight my inner demons, defeat the ‘what if’ affliction; I must keep moving, engage in productive measures, contribute.

I vacillate between that fear…

and the faith that we are here fulfilling the dream of the thousands years exile, participating in the redemptive era, building our land and raising our children with blessings…

The Torah begins in chaos—tohu vavohu—a primordial sense of havoc. Light and darkness sharing the same space; waters above, waters below, hovering winds upon the deep, depths, holes…

And then immediately God creates…order! Orderliness combats chaos, it defeats evil, it teaches us to separate darkness from light, call darkness what it is, don’t confuse the two. Chaos breeds doubt, uncertainty, indecision; God’s actions are assertive, productive, giving life, giving us purpose, giving blessing. The creation story is teaching us that there is order in the world, good and evil, right and wrong, and we are divinely commanded to adhere and protect that very institution.

This war is a battle of order against chaos, purposefulness vs. destructiveness, unity vs. discord, and the ability to let our faith in God, in good, in order, overcome the fear and disharmony upon which Hamas builds its identity.

My daughter Techelet remarked that just last week on Yom Kippur our country succumbed to disharmony and chaos; but, sadly, it took a war and such intense pain for us to come together to fight our inclinations to be right, to be divisive, and to remind ourselves what binds us together, what makes us Am Yisrael.

About the Author
Rabbi Avi Baumol is serving the Jewish community of Krakow as it undergoes a revitalization as part of a resurgence of Jewish awareness in Poland. He graduated Yeshiva University and Bernard Revel Graduate School with an MA in Medieval JH. He is a musmach of RIETS and studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut. He served as a rabbi in Vancouver British Columbia for five years. Rabbi Baumol is the author of "The Poetry of Prayer" Gefen Publishing, 2010, and author of "Komentarz to Tory" (Polish), a Modern Orthodox Commentary on the Torah. He also co-authored a book on Torah with his daughter, Techelet called 'Torat Bitecha'. As well, he is the Editor of the book of Psalms for The Israel Bible-- In summer 2019 Rabbi Baumol published "In My Grandfather's Footsteps: A Rabbi's Notes from the Frontlines of Poland's Jewish Revival".
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