I write to you as a mother, a mother of Israeli children, a mother of a soldier serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. I write as one of the rank and file of those Jews who have chosen to cast their lot with the nation who dwells in Zion and I, along with my people, am suffering from existential weariness. Our battle fatigue goes far beyond the trouble we have finding the drive to live our lives normally, since death has become the reality to which we have become so accustomed. The exhaustion has permeated the deepest recesses of our souls. It has not merely enervated us it has dispirited us as individuals and as a nation.

But I also write you as a teacher of Tanach (the Scriptures) here in the holy city of Jerusalem. And as a teacher of Bible my world is informed by the texts which I study and teach. A verse which has taken on powerful relevance for me, of late, is Lamentations 1:6:

And they went without strength before the pursuer.

On a simple level the verse describes the inability of the people of Judea of the sixth century BCE, to flee from their pursuers, the Babylonians. War had sapped them of their power and courage. Yet the rabbis, in Midrash Rabbah, understood the verse as follows:

Our exhaustion, it would seem, is different. It is beyond our control

"And they are gone without strength before the pursuer"; A man would say to his fellow in Jerusalem, "Teach me a page of Scripture," but the other would reply, "I haven't the strength." He would say, "Teach me a chapter of Mishnah," The other would reply, "I haven't the strength."

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them, "A time will come when I will act so with you"—"and they went without strength before the pursuer."

The midrash describes a degree of apathy displayed by man's lack of responsiveness to the other—they had no energy for human relationships. The homiletic value of this midrash served the rabbis well, trying to combat indifference in their own communities. They saw a correlation between man's lack of concern for others and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Strength is something over which they initially exercised control. Yet they sealed their own fate and hence lost their ability to choose. Their ultimate exhaustion was imposed upon them.

Our Exhaustion

Our exhaustion, it would seem, is different. It is beyond our control. It results from the constant assault of tragedy and horror. Battered again and again we have no strength. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah (4:31), "Alas for me, my soul is weary of killers!"

Morning after morning we are attacked by reports of bad news. There are days when I just can't bear to turn on the radio. The annoying hourly beeps signal pain and heartbreak. Some days, I listen to the 7:00AM news with a modicum of hope that today no bad news will be reported. Spared, I sigh with relief. Perhaps things aren't as terrible as I imagined; that is, at least, until the next newscast at 8:00. And then there are those days when I can't seem to turn off the radio.

We have modulated our register of pain and fine-tuned our fear gauge. But we are overwhelmed by fatigue.

Lifting Ourselves from the Quagmire of Weariness

The Sages, by informing us the cause of this exhaustion, also highlighted the method by which we can lift ourselves from the quagmire of weariness and not allow our spirits to be vanquished—the answer is the human encounter.

Friendship reminds us that our souls can still experience emotions other than pain and fearIn the past year, I have found myself, more than ever, in need of friendship and close family ties. My relationships with others have taken on a degree of importance by which I, myself, have been surprised. But I realize that it is not only the comfort and security which friends and family provide, it is the revitalization of the soul which comes from encountering the other. The care, concern and warmth which are stimulated by deep friendship, remind us that our souls can still experience emotions other than pain and fear.

When reality has forced us to relinquish control, these ties are still within our purview. The bonds between us and those closest to us keep us going.

With every passing day, we, as parents, are devastated by the realization that we can no longer protect our children, yet our indefatigable response is to cling to them more and more. In the face of such adversity our resilient souls never tire of showering our children with limitless love.

Thoughts of family and friends again direct me to the pages of the Bible. This time to the last prophetic book, that of Malachi. For years, I wondered about his final prophecy (3:23):

Lo, I will send to you the prophet Elijah before the coming of G‑d's awesome, fearful day. He shall reconcile parents with children and children with their parents...

Malachi describes the prophet Elijah as the dramatic harbinger of the redemption. Though the rabbinic texts depict him as reviving the dead and resolving legal debates, the biblical text describes him simply as a family counselor—"He shall reconcile parents with children and children with their parents."

Perhaps, in the context of redemption, this central task of the illustrious prophet Elijah highlights the deep significance of the human encounter. Redemption begins through reinforcing the connections of the nuclear family and moves from there to community and from there to the Community of Israel. It is through the relationships with those closest to us that we can achieve pedut nafshenu—personal redemption.

Redemption begins through reinforcing the connections of the nuclear family But there is more. It is by way of these relationships so near and dear that we mend the fabric of society which is in such desperate state of disrepair. This lays the foundation for Tikkun Olam.

When the big picture eludes us, when clouds of despair and confusion loom so heavily, we must try to restore perspective through focusing on those closest to us. It seems so simple, yet if we are able to muster the strength for the basic relationships of life – our family, our friends, our neighbors – perhaps the fog will lift. Then, we may experience a personal role in the redemptive process through our own human encounters, and find in these connections the comforting voice of the prophet Jeremiah (31:24):

And I will revitalize the weary, and fill the aching souls.