Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't Give Up!

Every stop on the Jewish calendar is a chance for reflection. Now that Tisha B’Av is over, I was thinking about how we go from one extreme to the next. We just spent 3 weeks mourning and now we’re on our way to Shabbos Nachamu, and the 7 weeks of reading Haftorahs of comfort, of Hashem telling us that it’s all going to be OK in the end. Interestingly, psukim of comfort can be found within Eicha itself.

Last year on the night of Tisha B’Av, as I was following along closely as Eicha was being read, a passage of Eicha jumped out at me that really surprised me because in the middle of describing the suffering, there are a few psukim of comfort that touched me. If you look at Eicha Perek 3, Psukim 17- 26, you’ll find beautiful psukim that inspired me so much that I was able to turn to those psukum all year ‘round no matter what difficult situation I was in. Here’s the Artscroll English translation of a bunch of the psukim (I highly recommend reading the Hebrew as well):

“My soul despaired of having peace, I have forgotten goodness. And I said, “Gone is my strength and expectation from Hashem.” …Yet, this I bear in mind, therefore I still hope. Hashem’s kindness surely has not ended, nor are His mercies exhausted. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness! Hashem is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him. Hashem is good to those who trust in Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good to hope submissively for Hashem’s salvation, for He has laid it upon him.”

It’s just stunning. It’s almost closer to something I would expect to find in Yeshayahu, although I think the style is more Eicha. It’s a great message. Do you know those times when you just want to give up? Eicha is saying, I give up! I despaired! I’m done! I don’t expect anything from Hashem anymore, there is no hope for me. It’s hopeless! I give up. I give up!

And then Eicha shares with us the secret of how to move past that feeling. What do you do when you want to give up? When you just don’t see how things are ever going to be good ever again? When it’s so bad that you have “forgotten goodness,” even if it’s just in one particular area of life? How do you move past that difficulty and trouble? Then there comes 3:11-13. THIS is what I tell my soul. What do I remind myself? That Hashem is not done giving to me yet. I am alive. Every single day is a new day, and with every single day there is a new chance for Hashem to shower His kindnesses and love upon me. “They are new every morning!” Don’t give up hoping for Hashem to save you from that difficult situation that you’re in. Don’t give up, says Eicha, because Hashem isn’t giving up on you.

And this is just after a few psukim earlier in the very same Perek Eicha cries out, “I am the man who has seen affliction….He has driven me on and on into unrelieved darkness…He has walled me in so that I cannot escape…though I would cry and plead, He shut out my prayer.” He literally feels like there is nowhere to turn, no where to escape, there is no way out. Everything is darkness, he is physically broken. And that’s when He gives up. He despairs. But he is able to turn it around and respond to his soul’s desperation.

I think that’s also an important point. That the way his faith is restored is through himself. Not by others telling him, “It’s going to be OK,” but by him coming to the realization himself. We have that power within us to overcome all of our negative feelings. As much as we want to give up, as much as sometimes things seem hopeless, we have the inner strength inside us to hold on and turn it around.

This was a bit of personal post, but I wanted to share it because it’s been one year since those words inspired me for the first time, and each time I read them, I feel it all over again, because the message is so powerful. No matter what you’re struggling with, don’t give up. Hashem’s kindnesses are new every day. There is always hope.

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Brown always said that you never meet a person after despair. Bcz they are no longer at that point. As Jews we are never supposed to be depressed and broken. Even in Av when it says that we shud diminish our simcha..the lashon used is diminish not eliminate. Even in this saddest month of the year, we still celebrate for we know that Hashem still loves us and will never destroy us and rather than eradicate us He destroyed stone and wood. We should never lose absolute hope to do so is to lose all faith in our Father who loves us!


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