This week I had a scary dream. I was chained or being physically restrained and surrounded by an angry mob. I heard myself saying, “Why won’t you let me be?”
Then in walks someone dressed in Christian holy cloth, and he is carrying a large cross in front of him. He comes to me and holds it up in front of me, moving ever closer and closer. I understood that he was trying to get me somehow to acknowledge or accept the cross. But instead, I am fighting violently to get free and away, and I am screaming out, “Just let me be a Jew!”
Maybe I’m watching too many shows or reading too many Medieval history books about the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, and the endless pogroms, but even in my dreams, it was absolutely frightening to be a Jew in those times, hated and persecuted just for being religiously different from others.
Let’s just say, individuality and freedom of religion and expression were foreign concepts then and unfortunately remains so even today to too many backward and intolerant people. However, in those days, the likes of the Grand Inquisitor saw to it that anyone professing or practicing other than the accepted religion of the time was rooted out, tortured, and executed, such as by horrible burning at the stake. Often the last words on the lips of many of these tens and hundreds of thousands of Jews being agonizingly murdered for being Jews was the utterance of the holy Shema Yisrael, declaring their undying faith in the Oneness of the G-d of Israel!
This violent dream, which felt very real to me, felt like a test of my own faith, and I hope one that none of us ever has to experience in real life. Yet, someone in synagogue said today:
We are all tested by adversity, and this is what gives us the confidence, perseverance, compassion, and gratitude to live our own lives.
These are critical attributes for personal success that you really can’t teach someone just through words, but only through experiencing challenges in real life. These hardships that we face help us to build our confidence, learn to persevere, understand others’ feelings, and feel genuine gratitude for what we have.
While anti-Semitism and persecution for being Jews is horrible and should never happen, in a sort of obscene and ironic way, it ends up making us stronger as Jews. In short, testing our faith, ends up solidifying our faith! The Marranos, in the times of the Spanish Inquisition, demonstrated just that; they pretended to convert from being Jews to save their lives, but in reality, they continued to practice their Judaism in secret. No one can change your inner heart and soul if you don’t want them to.
In a movie that I saw recently about the effects of a horrible war that left countless people maimed or dead, and families torn apart or destroyed, one person says:
Life is hell, but we have to beat hell.
No one likes adversity, suffering, or persecution, and G-d only knows that we as Jews have known our deeply painful share. Yet whether from Egyptian slavery to the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and more, it’s our test as Jews to survive, and to learn and grow from it our faith in Hashem.
Yes, these things are far easier said than done, but when we face these terrible events, we must try with all our might to overcome them, heroically and faithfully. When Mashiach arrives, please G-d, soon in our times, hopefully the cycle of testing our faith and surviving stronger for it will no longer be necessary, because then we will all bask openly in the revelation of G-d and finally be able to worship Him in eternal and universal peace.