07 September 2017

Parshas Ki Savo – Ka’ve E-L Hashem: Hope to Hashem

By Roy S. Neuberger

“But … if you do not hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe, to perform all His commandments and all His decrees that I command you today, then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you …. Hashem will scatter you among all the peoples, from the end of the earth to the end of the earth, and … among those nations you will not be tranquil, there will be no rest for the sole of your foot; there Hashem will give you a trembling heart, longing of eyes and suffering of soul….” (Dvarim 28:15ff)

How do we deal with these terrible words?

As I write, the city of Houston is being inundated by the most damaging storm in memory, with rainfall in some areas expected to total around fifty inches. One inch of rainfall is significant; fifty inches is almost unimaginable!

“On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die … who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm ….” (Unasanetokef)

Beginning the first day of Elul, we say, “L’Dovid … Hashem is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”Dovid Hamelech is speaking about fear of men, but, in general, how do we deal with fear? How do we deal with pain and damage and adversity? 

Fear is disabling. You look into the future and see no way out; you feel trapped on every side. 
In the past, I have described my childhood. I did not know that Hashem existed. I felt locked in by fear, as if I was a prisoner of an evil force which I could not control. 

Years later, when I discovered Hashem, I realized that I was indeed governed by a Force beyond my control, but I discovered something amazing: that Force is Completely Good! That Force is benevolent beyond my understanding, beyond my own benevolence. If I would entrust my fate to that Force, then I would find total protection. 

“Min ha maitzar …. From the straits I called upon Hashem” (Tehillim 118) That is the only way out, the only escape route. We can call upon Hashem from our prison and He will release us. This is what happened with Yosef Hatzaddik. Dovid Hamelech says, “whom shall I fear? G-d is the source of my life’s strength. Of whom … shall I be afraid?” (Tehillim 27)

This ability to call upon Hashem is always within our power. At any moment, in any situation, we are able to decide whether to trust that Infinitely-Benevolent Force. “Hakol bidai Shomayim … Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for fear of Heaven.” (Berachos 33b) Fear of Heaven cancels out all other fear. It can never be taken from us, and this is everything! 

Perhaps that is why we repeat the words “ka’ve el Hashem.” We see this world with our eyes of flesh, and we “hope to Hashem.” But that is not enough. We have to “hope to Hashem” even beyond our ability to see. We exist in a finite world; Hashem’s world, lehavdil, is infinite. We have to hope beyond the finite world; we have to hope to infinity! 

Sometimes, I still remember my childhood fears that my nature is evil, as if it were not true that the “neshoma shenasata bi tahora hi … that the soul You placed within me is pure.” (Morning brachas) What happens if my neshoma is really impure? What happens if my basic nature is evil, G-d forbid? This is when I need an extra layer of “ka’ve el Hashem,” when I need my hope in Hashem to overpower my fear, when I need to understand that, somehow, whatever happens in this world is from a Place beyond my understanding which is all good. 

“Hashem is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l explains: “Wait upon G-d and, even if your hopes should remain unfulfilled for the present, remain strong, gather new courage from your heart, and never cease to hope.” If our hope comes from the Infinite; nothing in this finite world can overpower us. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Those classic words, stated in a moment of national danger, remained in the public mind because fear is so prevalent among mankind. But I believe that we, the Children of Israel, need more than those words. We need to know how to break out of that cycle of fear. 

“Bnai Adam …. Children of Man, who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, shackled in affliction and iron, He removed them from darkness and the shadow of death and broke open their shackles.” (Kaporos Erev Yom Kippur)

We say “Ka’ve el Hashem … hope to Hashem,” and that is directed toward that which is in our power to accomplish. But we can go beyond that. We have to “hope to Hashem” again, even beyond what is in our power. In Rabbi Hirsch’s words, “This awareness of G-d’s Presence, which no one can take from me, makes me feel sure that victory will be mine in the end.”

“Achos ketanah … The little sister, she prepares her prayers and proclaims her praises. Oh G-d, please, heal her ailments now! Let the (old) year and its curses conclude….” Our tefillos never end. Even beyond what seems possible, we implore Hashem!

“Be strong and rejoice, for the plunder is ended. Place hope in the Rock and keep His covenant. You will ascend to Tzion and He will say, ‘Pave! Pave her paths! Let the (new) year and its blessings begin!’” May we see it soon in our days! 

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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.
© Copyright 2017 by Roy S. Neuberger

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