I am scared. But it is not what you think.
I am not scared of this war or what is going to be, because we have over 3000 years of history to prove that the Jewish people will continue to exist. Sure, I am concerned about what we will have to endure until we make it to the other side, and I worry for everyone’s safety, but the thing that actually scares me, really scares me- is missing our opportunity.
We just finished another cycle of parshios. I studied each one. I tried to understand what the Torah wants us to know. The Torah is there to teach us what our role is in this world. What our responsibility is in this world. The conclusion that I have come to (with the help of perushim) is that through engaging in our relationship with Hashem in the way that we are meant to, we will ultimately bring a kiddush Hashem that has the power to transform the world.
As I learned the parsha each week, I noted every misstep that was taken that redirected the course of our history, every time the ball was dropped, and I continued to ask myself, so what do we need to do? How do we make sure we get to where we need to be? I agonized over how we could make the difference. I observed the state of the Jewish people and felt helpless. Could it really be that we could do something to make a big enough kiddush Hashem that would bring us to the final geula? Things seemed bleak. We weren’t even united enough to do anything together. It seemed hopeless.
But then something amazing happened. Within a matter of days it seemed like Jews around the world were uniting, that they all have each other’s backs, and suddenly, I was empowered by the shift. I understood how things can change in a moment, and that there is a chance that the geula will come in response to something that we’ve done, as opposed to coming simply because our time has run out.
But that empowerment got quickly tempered with what I know from our history.
Hashem has given us many opportunities, but unfortunately up until now, we’ve messed up. We failed in these crucial moments to rise to the occasion in the way that we need to, and I’m terrified that we will do that again. How much more do we need to encounter before we get the message?
A few weeks ago on the shabbos of Nitzavim Vayelech, I was at a shiur on the haftorah. The speaker was focusing on the words of Yeshaya (61:10) where our relationship with Hashem is compared to a bride and groom. He then directed us to Yechezkel perek 16, when the navi talks about how we are compared to a dirty abandoned baby who Hashem adopts and cleans and feeds and turns into a princess, and then He marries. But then we got too comfortable and rejected Hashem’s kindness and gave ourselves over to other partners (gods). It is a mashal that repeats itself in nach, but this was the first time I understood it. I always took the nimshal to be how ungrateful we are, how disloyal. This time I realized something else. When a relationship is established on one party saving the other, it doesn’t last. At some point, when the threat disappears, we forget about it, grow too comfortable, and stray. This is what has happened to us every time since we left Mitzrayim. Our relationship with Hashem was founded on Him saving us. But that isn’t enough. We came to Har Sinai united with one heart, but ultimately, our marriage was lacking because it was based on fear. We had an opportunity to amend this at the time of the Purim story. We finally accepted the Torah with love as opposed to fear. But even then, Mordechai knew it wouldn’t be enough. He knew how important it was that we stick together. Maybe that is why he established that the way we celebrate Purim is through mitzvos bein adam lchavayro. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. The Bayis shayni was destroyed because of baseless hate. We have an opportunity now to take the unity that we are experiencing and focus it on finally reestablishing our relationship with the Almighty once and for all. If we want this marriage to last, we can’t just appeal to Hashem to save us. He will, He always does. But if we want things to change, if we want to stop being in a position where we require being saved, we have to come to Him by choice with love and fear and togetherness. We have to say marry us because we want You. This is our chance. This is our opportunity. Let’s not mess it up.