Stephen Daniel Arnoff
Author, Teacher, and Community Leader

Like a Diamond in the Dark

Sigmund Freud said that as painful as depression may be, it is also a clear sign that something important taking shape inside of a person.

“Another day of anger, bitterness, and doubt,” mystic master Bob Dylan sings,

I know how it happened                                                                                                      I saw it begin                                                                                                                        I opened up my heart and the world came in…

The world presses down upon us when our hearts are open, and the weight can be almost too heavy to bear. But if we can rebalance this burden, we get stronger, more nimble, and more empathetic to others in pain.

A lot of us in Israel are deeply depressed. There is just too much to carry. And we are also angry. What happens to a person or a people so torn by the extreme emotions of anger and sadness? What happens when the weight of the world threatens to crush us and break our hearts?

We are enraged by Hamas for its demonic brutality. We are angry with our government for not doing everything it possibly can to free our hostages, and furious at the selfish political machinations that drive so many of our so-called leaders. We seethe at seeing rivers and seas of shiny, happy people in London and Brooklyn and Oakland and on Harvard Green cheering for Hamas and the Houthis and Hezbollah.

As rage burns and sadness presses upon us, we must not stagnate. We need to believe that there is something happening inside this country which has real value for ourselves and the generations to come. Like the heat and pressure acting upon carbon to form a diamond, we pray that something precious can emerge from the anguish acting upon us.

As I write I hear from Paris Square the last of many protests led by women this week – a day of rage across the country in support of the hostages and their families. They are banging on drums and chanting, and putting much-needed pressure on the government to do better.

While the choices before us in an impossible age are laden with pain and risk, we are still obligated to make good choices. If we are completely dominated by our rage, even if we succeed in inflicting upon Hamas the pain that it deserves, we risk missing the opportunity to free our captives and chart a viable political and military course for the future. If we sink into a national depression, the best we can hope for is a society that sees itself as forever victimized, handing our future to narcissist extremists that will surely double down on division and blame, and codify the same mistakes that left us so vulnerable to our enemies on October 7.

Somewhere in the mix of anger and sadness lies the energy and resolve we require to avenge our dead, to reestablish our borders, to reach out to our allies and those with aligned our interests, and to spark the determination and imagination of new leaders – may many of them be women! – who can turn this rage and sadness into something precious and unbreakable that shines like a diamond in dark.

About the Author
Dr. Stephen Daniel Arnoff is the CEO of the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center and author of the book About Man and God and Law: The Spiritual Wisdom of Bob Dylan.
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