During this tense and troubling period, Chavi and I learned an important lesson: Fighting terror is not just a matter of military and police security measures. It also requires courage, determination, idealism, and, yes, even joy.
All of these attributes are displayed by the Israeli populace across the religious, ideological, and socioeconomic spectrum. Individuals display courage by continuing to frequent every nook and cranny of the Holy Land. They thus assert their determination not to surrender our God-given rights to this land. They give voice to an idealism that recognizes our historical connection to every inch of this country, a connection that traces back to the promises made by the Almighty to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This idealism is based upon the firm conviction that this land is not merely a safe haven granted to the survivors of the Holocaust. It is an idealism that understands this is our homeland, and Jerusalem is its soul.
What about joy? What is the significance of our paradoxical ability to express joy on Simchas Torah immediately after burying several of our best and brightest? To me, this paradox is nothing less than the epitome of Jewish faith. It is concisely expressed in the eleventh verse of the second of King David’s Tehillim. It reads, “vegilu bire’adah, rejoice with trembling.”
I recently completed a commentary of my own on Tehillim, released by Koren Publishers Jerusalem. Here is what I wrote on vegilu bire’adah:
“Many have found this brief phrase to contain the secret of Jewish spirituality. As the Talmud (Berachot 30b) has it: ‘In a place of great joy there needs to be trembling.’ One cannot allow moments of joy to deteriorate into frivolity…. But the converse is also true…. In moments of trembling, times of great frustration and despair, one must somehow find a way to rejoice. A semblance of joy and hope must exist even in the depths of suffering.”
We Jews know how to rejoice in trembling. It is the secret of our ability to endure centuries of exile and persecution. And it is this secret that will enable us to emerge from the current difficulties victorious and ennobled.
Chavi and I were so privileged to witness joy in the midst of trembling this past Yom Tov season.
I close with prayers for the healing of those who have been wounded recently; for a nechamah for the bereaved; for a swift, just, and comprehensive peace for Israel; and for a time when we will celebrate with pure joy, devoid of trembling and tears.