Yael Eckstein | August 19, 2020
Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” — Deuteronomy 20:8
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shoftim, which means “judges,” from Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9.
Has this ever happened to you?
You are going about your business on a bright and sunny morning when suddenly you bump into “that person.” You know the one. The one who is always telling you about how the world is coming to an end. The economy is only getting worse. The world is on the brink of war. We don’t stand a chance of staying healthy in today’s environment. It will be a miracle if our children turn out to be good people given our society’s culture.
Suddenly, the morning is not so bright and sunny anymore. It is darker and scarier than you ever imagined! Fear is contagious. One person full of fear can infect all those around them.
In this week’s Torah reading, we learn that when the Israelites went to war, the officers asked the soldiers, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted?” and anyone who was fearful was sent home. Why? “…so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” If one soldier was afraid, he could discourage all of the other troops.
Indeed, fear is contagious, but thankfully, so is faith.
As we just read yesterday, a few verses earlier Scripture tells us that before war, the priest addressed the soldiers and said, “…Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory’” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4). The faith of the priest influenced the hearts of the soldiers and fortified them to face their battles courageously.
Every day, we have the opportunity to spread fear or to increase faith. Faith and fear have something in common — they both require us to believe in something for which we have no proof. When we fear something, we believe that the worst will happen. When we have faith, we believe that everything will work out for the best. Both fear and faith require us to hang our hats on something that hasn’t yet happened. So why not choose faith?
As people of faith, we can have full confidence that God is in control, and we know that God is good. It follows that we have nothing to fear — everything truly is for the best.
Today, choose to spread faith to everyone you meet. Someone may be in the midst of a dark and murky day, but you can be the sunshine.