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Shayna Goldberg
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When we Israelis have ‘crazy thoughts’

They make you barricade your sliding doors. And turn driving through a tunnel into fear for the hostages. And dare you to make summer plans
Sunrise/Photo by John Towner on Unsplash

Since October 7th, every Israeli I know has had some crazy thoughts.

Last night, my husband asked me if he should send a book manuscript he is working on to his brother in America, just in case something happens to us.

I had been getting ready for bed, thinking if we need to have a family plan about where to go if rockets start flying when we are not all home.

Welcome to crazy thoughts. Add them to the growing list.

They come at random times.

Like in your bed, in the middle of the night, when you wake up and decide to further fortify your glass sliding doors with wood blocks.

Or at 11 p.m., when you need to — right now, this second — put your personal documents and some cash in the safe room.

Or when you drive through a tunnel and suddenly can’t breathe, because your mind goes to the hostages.

Or when you see a flyer for an event in May and catch yourself wondering if we will be around to enjoy it.

Craziness.

At first, I thought it was me. I tend to worry.

But then I heard Israeli journalist and news anchor Lucy Aharish say she contemplates hiding her child in the washing machine if a terrorist were to infiltrate her Tel Aviv apartment. And a neighbor detailed what household items could make good weapons (a hot iron!). And several children of mine described their vivid dreams of warding off terrorists in our home. And an easygoing relative applied for a gun license. And young women expressed their sense of urgency to conceive. And people wondered if, perhaps, we should not get rid of chametz this year if food shipments might be disrupted.

The top headline on the news announced that government officials declared there is no need at this point to buy generators. Another cautions that Waze in many parts of the country is showing people in Beirut as the army deliberately plays with the GPS system. And I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one struggling to think ahead and make summer plans…

Crazy thoughts. They are everywhere these days.

In the weeks and months since that awful day, there have been no boundaries to awful ruminations. Stable, grounded people have imagined unfathomable scenarios unfolding on the ground. And these new normal thoughts don’t feel very normal at all.

But then I have another crazy thought.

There is a long line of Jews who must have had crazy thoughts:

Abraham in the burning furnace;

Isaac lying on the altar;

Dina in Shechem’s palace;

The slaves on their worst days in Egypt;

Moses looking down upon the Jews battling Amalek;

Joshua facing the walls of Jericho;

David staring up at Goliath;

Esther entering the king’s chambers;

The Maccabees fighting the mighty Greek;

Rabbi Akiva’s students watching his skin be combed with hot iron;

The conversos hiding their Shabbat candles in Spain;

The Jews expelled from one Muslim country after another;

Jews in the ghettos and concentration camps of Europe.

What crazy thoughts went through their heads? What were they contemplating? What did they prepare for? What did they envision? What realities did they imagine?

It is the darkest part of night before the new day begins.

It is pretty crazy that the sun keeps rising. That we live in the modern State of Israel. That we have an army to protect us and fight our wars.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, once said: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”

What a crazy thought.

We have a long history of crazy, unpredictable miracles. And even when they are not overt, somehow the Jewish nation pulls through.

We are still here. Our history reminds us that we don’t understand. That there is a long-term plan. That God made us a promise. And that His salvation often comes in the blink of an eye — “ישועת ה’ כהרף עין”  Quicker than you can pack your bags. Faster than the dough can rise.

Pretty crazy.

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: Womenandmitzvot.org 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.
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