Rabbi Yisrael Taub of Modzhitz (Modzicz, 1849-1921), the founder of the Modzhitz Hasidic dynasty, said:
The fact is: when righteous people are afraid and fearful of the wicked, it gives [the wicked] the power to harm them – God forbid! – as it says: ‘Like a muddied spring, a ruined fountain, are the righteous fallen before the wicked’ (Proverbs 25:)…
Divrei Yisra’el (Tel Aviv. 1984), pt. 2, pp. 9-10.
When we fear the wicked, those who would do us harm, we give them power over us. We let their agenda determine our own. His quotation from Proverbs suggests that the righteous who succumb to the wicked are themselves tainted, contaminated. Purity cannot be maintained when we give in to wickedness. The Modzhitzer knew that fear bestows power upon those we fear. It makes us dance to their tune, sing from their hymn sheet, march to their drumbeat. It taints and demeans us. Only overcoming our fear, only a determined decision to live our lives free of fear, can we wrest power back from the terrorists who would have us live in their thrall.
Elul is a month given to us to reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a month where we try to take account of our lives, so that we might make the most of this powerful time of renewal, regeneration, fresh starts and healing.
This year our daily Elul Thoughts are taken from ‘Terror, Trauma and Tragedy’, edited by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain and Rabbi David Mitchell. Each is a short extract of a larger piece designed to help us find meaning, comfort or perhaps more questions in the aftermath of horrific events, which have seemed all too frequent this year. The horror of such atrocities can leave us in confusion, depression and fear. As we move into a new year we hope these pieces might variously offer some solace, be a tool of self-reflection, and encourage us to continue working for a better world.