Six years ago, on the 25th of Cheshvan (November 18), two Arab terrorists walked into the Bnei Torah shul in Har Nof, Yerushalayim, and attacked the people davening Shacharis. Five Jews were brutally massacred, as well as a Druze police officer who tried stopping the terrorists. This year, Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah coincides with the yahrzeit of these kedoshim (martyrs.) This time period covered by Parshas Vayera and Parshas Chayei Sarah also marks the yahrzeits of other troubling losses. Last Shabbos was the yahrzeit of the 11 Jews massacred inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The 16th of Cheshvan was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which started the violent aggression of the Nazis killing and deporting Jews across Europe.
Living with loss is very challenging. Parshas Chayei Sarah opens with the death of Sarah Imeinu. According to the simple interpretation of Rashi, Sarah passed away when she heard that Avraham took Yitzchak to offer him as a sacrifice to Hashem. The shock was too much for her system, and her neshama left before she could hear the positive end of the story.
Akeidas Yitzchak is considered by many commentators as the last and most challenging of the ten tests of Avraham. Clearly, this was a test for both Avraham and Yitzchak—one would lose his son, and one would give up his life. But Avraham’s test would not just be the fact of his son’s death. Yitzchak was the son of his old age; there would be no other. Further, Yitzchak was designated to ensure the continuity of everything Avraham had built up in his life. Without Yitzchak, there would seemingly be no klal Yisrael. It would all be over. This test, this sacrifice, was of epic proportions.
In this last century—even in this last decade—we have seen multiple akeidos (sacrifices). So many Jews were murdered just for being Jewish.
Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch says these terrible tragedies are a challenge to our emunah and bitachon—our trust and reliance in Hashem. Hashem always has a plan. He decides who shall live and who shall die. Hatzur tamim pa’olo—Hashem’s actions are perfect (Ha’azinu 32:4). All those affected by a tragic test are also determined by Hashem. For reasons beyond our understanding, those affected needed those tests.
David Hamelech said, “… lehagid baboker chasdecha v’emunascha baleilos”—tell about Your (Hashem’s) kindness during the day and our reliance (emunah) in You (Hashem) at night (Tehillim 92:3). Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato explains that “daytime” is when there is light and clarity; we can see the kindness of Hashem. “Night” is when it’s dark and we cannot see Hashem’s kindness clearly. That’s when we need emunah. That’s when we are called to trust in Hashem.
The pasuk first mentions telling about Hashem’s kindness during times of clarity; afterward, it mentions having emunah during the dark times. I believe David Hamelech is teaching us how to build, develop and strengthen our emunah. Emunah at night only comes after we have the clarity of day. A clear observation of Hashem’s kindness is a necessary building block for our emunah.
That’s our tes: noticing in broad daylight all the kindnesses Hashem bestows upon us. All things big and small come from Hashem—life, health, children and even the unexpected parking spot close to the store. Be it a tax refund or a break from morning traffic, all are a gift. We need to take notice, give thanks and share with others our joy in receiving Hashem’s gifts. Recognizing and sharing news of the kindnesses of Hashem with others will give us the strong emunah at dark times, when it’s harder to see Hashem’s kindness. The emunah that we have through the dark night will in turn give us the merit to witness the next morning, when we will be able to see clearly that all that happened was for the good. We will have developed the confidence that Hashem loves us and is only interested in what is truly good and beneficial for us.
May Hashem elevate all those precious neshamos who were killed al kiddush Hashem and may we continue to witness the morning, when we can see the infinite kindness of Hashem throughout time.