Dear readers,

A couple of weeks ago, I was lecturing on the West Coast and met some amazing women. In one location before my talk, an Israeli woman led us through a chapter of Psalms.

The woman’s voice was beautiful and as she sang, her face reflected the intensity of emotion that King David’s haunting words evoke. She sang in the original Hebrew about lifting our eyes to G‑d and finding our strength, no matter how dark or difficult our circumstances. I later learned that the woman’s daughter had been seriously ill, and after taking upon herself the mitzvah of separating challah, her daughter miraculously recovered.

After my talk, the woman approached me to thank me. She said she felt like I was speaking directly to her. But, she cautioned, as far as taking on mitzvot, she considered herself “a very secular Israeli who is not religious.”

I looked at her with utter disbelief and responded, “After watching you say that Psalm, with such intense faith, I consider you one of the most religious people I ever met! The emotions written all over your face clearly demonstrates your belief and trust in G‑d.”

I wasn’t sure how she would react to being called “religious,” but apparently she understood what I was saying. “Thank you,” she answered. “That is one of the nicest compliments I ever received.”

Often I’m confronted by Jews who don’t consider themselves “religious” and yet through their actions demonstrate just how strong their connection to their Source truly is. There are no “secular” Jews; every Jew is holy, and often their neshama is beating stronger than ever.

The Midrash teaches that Moses had a vision of the Jewish people at the end of times and he envied them. Though Moses experienced the greatest revelation of G‑d at Mount Sinai, he admired the simple character of Jews at the end of the long exile.

What did he see for which he was so envious?

He saw Jews who had been battered and badgered through a tortuous exile. He saw Jews who had been afflicted materially, emotionally and physically. He saw Jews who were enveloped in a spiritual darkness; Jews who were leaderless and directionless. He saw Jews who were on a lower level than any who preceded him.

And yet, he saw Jews who, despite their circumstances, despite the difficulties, held strong to their faith.

I think Moses must have seen that Israeli woman and the many others that I meet.

We have just started the month of Tevet, which is physically the darkest month of the year. As the last flames of our Chanukah menorah die down, we are surrounded by a world burning with hatred and craziness. I thank G‑d for regularly witnessing the miracle of Jews who, despite it all, are still holding on.

May the darkness of exile finally be brightened with the light of redemption.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW