The story is told of Biblical Adam, who cried and wailed when the sun went down for the first time. His reaction was not just the fear of darkness or even of a totally new experience. His reaction went beyond the loss of light. It was about the loss of hope. (Talmud, Pesachim 54a)
We are just like Adam. Our ability to withstand suffering and difficulty is great, as long as we do not lose hope. To find inspiration and advice, we need look no further than Israel and her national anthem. HaTikvah, whose very name means hope, can give us ways to regain the light of hope as the darkness of hopelessness threatens to descend.
Israel teaches us that keeping hope alive:
- Demands strength of spirit. While living in the Holy Land is an empowering, moving experience for members of many religions, it is also a place of many stresses and dangers. It is truly a place that can make you cry tears of anguish and joy. Spiritual strength is called upon every day.
- Reminds us that we don’t pick our neighbors. Maintaining a hopeful approach is about how we choose to react to the people and influences around us. There is much we cannot control, but we often have more power over our reactions than we initially think.
- Cautions us that the path is not going to be easy. Like so many things of value this is a long-term commitment, a marathon and not a sprint. And like a marathon, we must cultivate the strength to push through the difficult times to the euphoria of the next mile and the satisfaction of the finish line.
The bottom line on hope is found in the first line of the lyrics to HaTkivah:
Kol od baleivav penimah/ Nefesh yehudi homiyah,
כָּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה
“As long as Jewish spirit/ Yearns deep in the heart.”
The opening words Kol od are best understood as a plea to a call for longevity and persistence. Hope comes from within to inspire and direct us. It is a singularly precious commodity as it allows us to weather any storm and withstand any stress.
Our focus must always be on maintaining our hope, and when it wavers, to remember the words of the Psalmist: “Tears may linger for a night, but joy comes with the dawn” (Psalm 30:6). So long as we keep moving forward, the loss of hope is only temporary.