I could see the pain in their eyes

Friday, 21 June, 2019 - 4:50 am

Last Tuesday I was invited to an evening in the home of some friends in Jerusalem. On the right there was a long table, beautifully and elegantly set, and on the left there was a trio of musicians with their instruments. The room was brilliantly lit. Slowly it filled with people. Most of them I didn’t know, but very soon I understood that all those sitting around me are coping these days with a relative who has some form of cancer, with all the difficult treatments involved. For one it was his wife, for another it was a young son, and by the third it was a daughter. In the fourth case it was the person himself who was about to complete treatment, and a fifth had either a grandson or a nephew with the disease.

The musicians played, the hosts took out the best of their drinks, until one would have thought that we are all brothers celebrating a happy family event. We said “L’chaim” to each other, and even added some words of encouragement.

Suddenly all became quiet, and the oldest in the group, an impressive person with a long white beard, began to speak. He too has a child in his family who is in the midst of difficult treatments. “Master of all Worlds… Melech Abir (Mighty King)” he began, quoting from a wonderful prayer said after Shalom Aleichem on Friday night in many communities. And immediately, without waiting or even checking to see if anyone was listening to him, he continued with another quote from that same prayer, a quote that explained what was happening in front of our eyes, around that table: “I thank you, Hashem, my G-d and the G-d of my forefathers, for all the chesed that you have done with me and will do for me and my family in the future.”

The man explained himself at length, but I didn’t need anything more. I looked around me: Jews were sitting here while in their homes or in the hospital there was right then a little boy whose hair has fallen out; perhaps there was a little girl who was very weak after a treatment. They were singing and dancing, saying “L’chaim” out of a sense of joy, with complete trust and fiery faith exhibited by their entire body, without a sound, without a word: “Master of the all Worlds,Mighty King, I thank you for all the chesed that you will do with me in the future.”

When the man finished speaking, we jumped up spontaneously and started to dance – a dance of true joy, a dance of Jews sharing a similar trial, a dance of solid faith that nothing bad comes down from Heaven and that everything is for the good. But in it was also a heartfelt beseeching that this good be revealed, seeable. It was a dance of a child who is sure that his father just wants the best for him.

I was standing a bit to the side, looking at them. Me they could not fool: I could see the pain in their eyes. I well recognized it – their pain – too well, but alongside the pain I saw the hope, the faith and the thankfulness for the chesed that will come. I was witness to what this nation, which I love so much – the Jewish nation – is made of.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Comments on: I could see the pain in their eyes
There are no comments.