When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise- in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? - Psalm 56:3-4
This past November, dark clouds hovered over Jerusalem. In one sense, these were good clouds. We had received only half of the country's normal rainfall, and this meant that much-needed rain was on its way. In another sense, these were ominous clouds. Fear and sadness had descended upon Jerusalem. The month saw a wave of terrorist attacks. Terrorists drove cars into innocent civilians waiting at bus stops. Terrorists, who were local grocery store workers, burst into a synagogue with axes and knives. Random stabbing attacks on the streets of Jerusalem. How can we protect against such attacks? How can anyone feel safe?
Fear came upon Jerusalem, but also a healthy dose of faith.
An amazing thing happens when we realize that we are completely vulnerable and not in control of our lives; we recognize that God is. When we truly understand that it is not within our power or our government's ability to ensure our safety, we realize that only God can. Our darkest hours can bring the most light when we realize that God is our only source of security and protection.
This is what King David experienced in Psalm 56. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was forced to leave Israel because King Saul, out of resentment and jealousy, had decided to kill him. David left Israel for the Philistine city of Gat where he hoped to remain anonymous and live in safety. However, upon arrival, David was immediately in even more danger than before. The Jewish sages teach that the person minding the gate of the city was none other than a giant named Yishbi, the brother of another famous giant - Goliath! Yishbi immediately identified his brother's killer, detained him, and asked the king's permission to kill this enemy of the Philistine people.
So there David was - in grave danger on all sides. He wasn't safe back in Israel and he wasn't safe out of Israel. How did he react? "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." He turned to God, his only hope for salvation.
In the introduction to this psalm, we are told that it is "A miktam." The sages teach that the word miktam can be broken into two words: mach meaning "humble," and tam, meaning "perfect." When we are in such frightening experiences as described in this psalm, the upside is that we can become humble and perfect. Humble because we recognize our insignificance and God's omnipotence; perfect because we learn to trust in God.
Just as recent rains have brought growth and blessings to Israel, may the recent tragedies also bring about great faith and even greater salvation.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President