By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have been having a lot of trouble concentrating on my work and studies since the attack in Israel, feeling very confused and not really knowing what I should be doing. No matter what I’m doing, I feel sort of guilty I’m not doing something for Israeli soldiers or the south communities or something, so I’m beginning to feel depressed and numb, especially every time I watch another video of the carnage on the first day. I’ve heard the same thing from other people and haven’t heard anything concrete from anyone about this, and was wondering if you could offer any direction or clarity?
You are in good company; untold numbers of Jews are feeling the same way, as we hear from therapists and psychologists who have addressed some of these concerns. It’s hard to offer advice without knowing you and with matters like this, one size does not fit all. But, nonetheless, I will offer a few points as food for thought and perhaps it will help you embark upon a more positive direction.
The first thing is to stop viewing those videos and being involved in the precise details of what happened that day and even subsequently. To view these things is to play right into the hands of the terrorists, who videoed their travesties precisely for that reason — to strike terror and depression into the hearts of the Jews who will see them. Although it is crucial that these images are brought to the attention of politicians and policymakers to see the full scope of the evil we are dealing with, the man in the street has no benefit in viewing these images and it’s counterproductive to do so. This especially applies to children and young people!
Secondly, it’s vital that you are in touch with yourself and identify what you are feeling, if it’s anger, fear, helplessness, worthlessness or other emotions, with relation to the situation. Find someone with whom you can discuss these feelings and who can help you guide them in a positive direction.
It will help you greatly to get involved in one of the many efforts to raise funds for myriad current needs in Israel. Whether it be raising funds for meals for the army or displaced people, clothing and other tactical needs for the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) or one of the many other collections going on, you can offer your time to help with one or more of these efforts. Contact your local JCC or Jewish Federation, Friends of the IDF or other pertinent organizations and ask how you can help. [If you would like, you can contact me and I’ll give you the details of how you can get involved in the special emergency collection headed by my son, IAF Captain (res.) Benny Fried, to get lifesaving tactical gear to reserve units in real time.]
Last, but not least, this is a unique time to reach out to and connect to G-d. Prayers are being recited throughout the Jewish world in ways not seen in a very long time. Groups and congregations in every country and every city are gathering together to recite Tehillim, the Book of Psalms, which has been the go-to connection to the Al-mighty since it was written by King David thousands of years ago. (Especially recommended are Psalms 13, 20, 23, 30, 83, 121, 124, 130 and 142.)
Lastly, become involved in Torah study. Whether you join live classes being offered (which has the added plus of being with other, like-minded people, itself very helpful), listen to or read classes online (see, for example, aish.com, torahanytime.com, chabad.org and more) or read one of myriad books on the Torah portion, Jewish law or philosophy, immersing yourself in the Word of G-d will do much for your heart and soul.
More than anything, at times like this, the Jewish people turn to G-d, as we have done since time immemorial and continue to do today. As the Talmud says, when we realize that we can’t rely upon governments or anyone else, “Ain lanu lehisha’ein ela Avinu Sheboshamayim,” we have no one to rely on other than our Father in Heaven (Talmud, end of Tractate Sotah). When we get to that point, G-d connects to us in a profound way and we can hope for a redemption from our trials and tribulations.
May the Al-mighty redeem the precious captives whole in body and mind, crush our enemies and redeem our people to be able to live in peace and tranquility, without any losses on our side, speedily and in our days.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of DATA–Dallas Area Torah Association.