All of her friends (many of whom live in the Muslim Quarter) were going, and she also wanted to be there to show solidarity. My first (second and third) reaction was: “Absolutely not!!! Are you out of your mind? God is gearing us up for the third intifada and you want to go and dance around in front of a bunch of blood-thirsty murderous arabs?! No way, hose.”
She wasn’t pleased. I wasn’t pleased. We argued for quite a while but for once, I wasn’t going to be persuaded out of it. (Famous last words…)
'Don't you have emuna?'
“Don’t you have emuna?” she asked me, in the middle of it all. “Don’t you believe that God is running the world, and that nothing can happen to anyone unless God says so? Isn’t that what you tell me all the time?”
I had to press pause on our discussion and go and think about what she’d asked me: Did me not wanting my 14 year old out in a dangerous part of town (that also happens to be the most holy and precious part of the whole world…) mean that I didn’t have emuna? Or at least, that my belief and faith wasn’t as strong as I thought it was?
These are not simple questions. Many people like to think they’re holding at tzadik level in their emuna and bitachon (trust) in God, but really? They’re not. If something bad happens, God forbid, they don’t take it in stride, they don’t happily accept it and they don’t see that it’s 100% God’s will. They get caught up in blame games, anger, vengeance, guilt trips, depression, chronic grief and resentment, and all sorts of other things that can really ruin a person’s life.
What does God want?
So I took a time out, to see what my appropriate response to everything that’s going on right now should actually be. The question isn’t what do I think, what do I want, but what does God think? What does God want?
Does He want some quiet introspection, teshuva and serious contemplation about what we, as Jews, need to collectively acknowledge, work on and change in order for these horrible things to stop happening? Or, does He want a strong and immediate response to arab terror, to show the arabs we aren’t scared (even though we really are…) and that we’re still in control (even though we really aren’t, and everyone secretly knows it)?
After giving it some thought, it seems to me He wants both. Stand up to the arabs as and when appropriate and halachically mandated (and the halacha for dealing with national enemies is far less politically-correct and far more harsh than even the most hawkish right-winger would probably be comfortable with) – because Jewish life is incredibly precious, and must be protected any way possible.
BUT – don’t stop there. As a people, we have to start that conversation with God to ask Him what we need to do to in order for the terror attacks, the rockets, the stonings, shootings and terrible, debilitating every day stress of it all to stop, once and for all.
The spiritual response to terror
In their own way, both of my daughters came up with a profound spiritual response to the terrible murders that were so close to home. One started benching again; one donated a big chunk of her money to charity; one decided to do hafrasha challah (bake 2 kilo of challah so she could make the blessing on the dough); one started reading emuna books, to try to find God in it all.
These are big things, even though they seem so small.
Later on, the discussion about the hakafot hashniot resumed but this time with some additional information: the arabs were under curfew and couldn’t come out of their home; there would be policeman stationed all over the place in the Old City; ‘millions’ of people were coming, including a bunch of rabbis. I discussed it with my husband, and we agreed that he and my daughter would go to the hakafot hashniot together, at least for a little while.
My kids are in and out of the Old City all the time. Nearly all of their friends live there, and in the most ‘interesting’ neighbourhoods. My youngest is in school there for another two years. I realized that a certain amount of bravado, and business as usual is also required right now.
The very narrow bridge
It’s a hard tightrope to walk, between fear and courage, teshuva and deterrence, judging our enemies and punishing them accordingly, and judging ourselves and trying to make the internal changes God requires. I can see that I’m going to need a lot of Heavenly help to know what response is ‘right’, at least according to God. There are no easy answers.
God is turning the pressure up again. Here in Jerusalem, it’s Arab with daggers. Down south, it’s more rockets. In the Shomron, it’s snipers, elsewhere it’s rocks. But the rest of the world is also experiencing its fair share of problems, massacres, economic meltdowns, Syrian refugees and terrorists.
God is clearly expecting a response from us, and is turning up the alarm to ear-piercing levels. The question is: what does He really want from us? And, are we prepared to give it to Him?