In his work “Man’s search for meaning”, famous holocaust survivor and psychotherapist Victor Frankl analyses the psyche of the typical camp inmate. He suggests that those prisoners who had something to live for had higher rates of survival than those who didn’t. To quote: “He who has a why to live can cope with almost any how”.
Our ancient Jewish sages were acutely aware of this human phenomenon which is why the word ‘hope’ occupies a central place within Judaism. Every morning, afternoon and evening we say in our Amidah prayer “For your salvation do we hope every day” (blessing: Et Tzemach David). Many of the Jewish prophets from Isaiah to Jeremiah to Elijah called upon the people to better their ways and long for redemption. It’s this idea of hope that has given generations of Jews the ability to carry on and withstand any hatred and persecution that was levelled against them. And it’s this notion that gave us the energy only three years after our greatest devastation to rebuild the land of Israel. As our anthem states: “Od lo avdah tikvateinu”, since we have not lost our hope.
We will see this expressed in Shule this week too. We will begin the book of Devarim in which Moshe delivers his farewell address to the nation prior to their entry into the Promised land. He recounts large chunks of their history and chastises them for their failings. Yet he also gives them hope. As for the nations that confront you.. “You shall not fear them, for Hashem, your G-d – He shall wage war for you” (Devarim 3:22). Despite, the nation’s shortcomings, they will never be alone. They are never deprived of hope for a better future.
As we celebrate Shabbat and immediately observe the somber day of Tisha B’av that follows, it is upon us to ponder our own shortcomings and challenges. But we must also remember, that there is always hope. With only a slight change, we too, can experience the ultimate joy and liberation.
Shabbat Shalom and a meaningful Tisha B’av,
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raised Friedman