Shayna Goldberg

Permission to feel hopeful

Louis Har (in black) and Fernando Marman reuniting with their loved ones, at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024 (IDF Spokesperson)

It was nice to remember what it feels like to be hopeful.

For a few short hours on Monday, we were given that privilege. These days, hope is not something we take for granted.

Over the last few months, we have cycled through every challenging emotion in the book. You name, we felt it. Fear, sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration, devastation, guilt, despair, loneliness, cynicism, exhaustion, helplessness, loss of control.  It has been a tough ride.

The last couple of weeks have been especially rough. We have settled into a wartime routine, But that routine is far from normal. And as time goes on, the effects of this war become more apparent. The toll it is taking on marriages. The difficulty for soldiers to readjust to life when they return from the front. The crazy things our children say that make us realize what is really on their minds. The heavy losses.  The ever-growing circles of grief. The big questions about our future.

Last Shabbat, our 14-year-old mentioned that he had a feeling that some hostages were rescued. It was such a nice thought, and we grabbed onto that hope for a few hours. We wanted so badly to believe his intuition was correct. But as Shabbat ended, we were disappointed but not surprised to find out it was not the case. Nothing had changed.

And then suddenly, on Monday, something had.

I had barely slept. I had a huge pit in my stomach all night. It had been a complex day. Too many people suffering. Too many to worry about. Too many unknowns. Another scary dream about the war that incorporated personal conversations and experiences.

At 5:30 am, I stirred and could feel my husband moving around the room. Something felt different.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“They rescued two hostages,” he responded, his voice full of emotion. “They are alive and well.”

The reaction was fast and visceral. My body shook, my eyes filled with tears, the intensity was overwhelming.  I could barely breathe.

“For real?”

So many emotions coursed through me. And none of them felt familiar. It has been months since I have tasted pure, unadulterated hope, joy, elation, release, redemption.

There have been moments where I’ve felt glimmers. I’ll listen to a podcast that gives new insight and perspective, and a hope flickers that maybe there is something to what they are saying. I’ll meet an individual who is resilient, and a desire wells up to channel some of that strength. I’ll feel exhausted with being down and scared, and a decision is made that “I’ve had enough” and the time has come to focus my energies elsewhere.

But Monday was different. It was real, and it was deep. It was authentic. It was all encompassing.

And it was wonderful.

A belief that maybe things could get better. A renewed faith in our army and its incredible capabilities. An acknowledgement that we don’t know everything going on behind the scenes. A realization of how quickly things can turn. A reminder that God’s goodness, shrouded in suffering, is endless, as are the lengths to which Jews will go to rescue one another.

One by one, I woke up our children and reveled in watching those same feelings and understandings wash over them. They were emotional, their eyes were teary, they jumped out of bed, they joined us to watch the live coverage.

The hope and joy was palpable and personal. It was deep. It was genuine.

And it felt so, so good.

It was important to remember that we still have the capacity to feel hopeful. It is possible. It is real. It is meaningful. It gives strength.

And I remain hopeful that we will feel it again.

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: 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.