When we are victimised (whether individually or collectively)e can easily slide into fear and paranoia, viewing the world through a narrow, distorted lens, foisted upon us by the perpetrators. Those who inflict terror and pain want us to be intimidated, and we enable them to warp our world view by using their lens. Their lens generates fear of the other; it is a lens of despair—a lens that reveals only the worst in humanity. Yet we have a choice. We can decide to use that distorted lens, or replace it with one of our own, one that embraces the other, one of hope, and one of a connection and unity with all peoples of the world.
The wisdom of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslov, provides guidance for us: V’da she’adam tzarikh la’avar al gesher tzar m’od v’haklal v’ha’ikar shello yit’pacheid klal—Know that humans need to cross a very narrow bridge, and the all of it—the essential thing—is never to make yourself afraid.(1) And, more importantly, do not allow yourself to become paralysed by fear. When we look at the world through our own lens, we decide what we want the world to look like. We can act from fear or we can grow stronger from our experience and not be defeated.
(1) Lekutei Mohar’an, 2nd volume, section 48 (the collected writings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslov), translation by Monique Mayer.
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.