Is it just me, or does the world seem to become more volatile every day? We used to say that last year, we could never imagine where we would be today. Now we say the same thing about last week. The renowned Rabbi Berel Wein, who I was privileged to have as a teacher in High School, used to tell us, “The only thing we can be sure of is that tomorrow will not be like today.” This is undeniably true for the people of Ukraine, but as the war intensifies, and the threats increase, the uncertainty is felt on everyone’s doorstep.
Uncertainty can be an uncomfortable, even frightening, feeling, and our reflex is to do all we can to put things back in their place, and return life to normal. By now, however, we have faced years of uncertainty, and many feel as helpless as ever. “Not normal” is the new normal. So how do we deal with our fear of the unknown future?
What we can do is hope. Now, that is often used as a passive, even helpless expression, “hoping” for something without our own efforts. However, the truth is that it’s our greatest strength.
The Jewish holiday of Purim is next week. Our nation was threatened with total annihilation at the hands of a dangerous, narcissistic leader [Sound familiar?]. Mordechai and Esther mobilized the Jews in prayer, and we were saved in a miraculous turn of events. Maimonides writes that Purim was established to impart to future generations the ultimate lesson of the Purim story: G-d is always at our side when we call out to Him. In the refrain of “Shoshanas Yaakov,” the hymn traditionally recited after each reading of the Book of Esther, we sing “To make known that all who have hope in You will never be disappointed or ashamed; all who take refuge in You.” This is the holiday of hope, and G-d’s closeness to all who rely upon Him.
With this hope, we can address our feelings of concern in uncertain circumstances. Purim offers the pathway to returning things to normal. Not the “new normal,” but the normal that always was throughout our history and continues today. Events like those unfolding before us, and all the events in our personal lives that spin us out of control, send us reaching out for hope, and that is our greatest strength. (Based on a lecture of Rav Avrohom Schorr).