16 Av 5780 / Thursday, August 06, 2020 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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Grasshoppers and Crocodiles    

Grasshoppers and Crocodiles

The reason we spent 39 extra years in the desert was simply because we let fear overrule our emuna; we were afraid of the “giants” that awaited us in the Land of Israel...


The emotion I hate the most is fear…. I hate fear…. Really, really hate fear…. Did I mention that I hate fear? In case I didn’t, I hate fear. Many years of my life I spent paralyzed by it. I was afraid of everyone and everything. This was a big averah (sin) since the only One we are supposed to fear is Hashem. When I would pray about it, Hashem enlightened me to see that serving this fear was tantamount to serving an idol. I was doing everything the fear told me to do, and when I wasn’t doing what it told me to do, I was fearing what the repercussions would be. Usually, what it wanted me to do was to stay in place - don’t grow, don’t explore, play it safe and stay under the radar.


Baruch Hashem, because of all I have learned about emuna, many of my fears have been defeated or at least brought down to a more manageable level. Yet, when I am faced with choices and decisions that will lead to a life change, it is almost always accompanied by a test of fear which blocks the door to a new beginning.


I am ashamed to say, there are times I find myself thinking exactly like the Israelites in the desert. Rather than seeing the opportunity for spiritual growth in the new situations, they cried out, “We want to go back to Egypt!” Fear of anything or anyone other than Hashem does that to a person. If we squirm under its reign for too long, we are left bereft of intelligence. All that is left is the desire to have no fear. We enter a delusional state where the slavery we’ve known equals freedom and sewage equals a beautiful flowered meadow. The reason we spent 39 extra years in the desert was simply because we let fear overrule our emuna (complete faith in Hashem). We were afraid of the “giants” that awaited us in Israel, and we saw ourselves as “grasshoppers in their eyes.” 


Recently I had a dream. I was about 3 years old, and a scary person was chasing me. I hid in a big trash bin with a yellow tarp over it. The man began grabbing at my legs, saying, “I know you are in there!” I felt so helpless and tried to pull myself deeper into the trash. It was my safety from whatever awaited me out there. That is how fear feels to me - like someone dangerous is grabbing at me, and threatening, “I am going to get you!” It can be especially challenging if a person has had a past of traumatic experiences. Until one can look at those experiences with eyes of emuna, the yetzer hara (evil inclination) has good material to use. “Hmmmm, well, looky here, grasshopper,” the yetzer mocks, “look at what Hashem let happen to you. You really think you can trust Him? You really think He is going to help you if you go through that door? If it were me, I wouldn’t risk it. Better to stay in the trash bin. In fact, play it extra safe and bury yourself in it.”


Recently I realized on a deeper level how my life is like a microcosm of Israel. Since it is said that the Jewish people have a collective soul, the fears I have are not just my own. They are the same fears that the Jewish people have struggled with throughout history. The history of the Jewish people is both miraculous as well as traumatic. The exiles, expulsions, pogroms, and the holocaust left such a wound in us – the visceral memory reverberates to this day, causing fear. When there is lack of emuna, we begin worrying what the nations will say, weighing our every move. When they give us a nod of approval, we degrade ourselves by licking their poisonous crumbs off the floor as if they were delicacies. We think we can find safety in blending in, being like them, stopping all efforts for spiritual growth. We think the only way to take the yellow star patch off our arm, is to appease them. As Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.”


About a month ago, I had a huge fear attack. All I wanted was to make it go away as quickly as possible. I begged Hashem to take it away, but He was not taking it away. In fact, it was getting worse. I couldn’t figure out what I needed to fix. I asked Him to help me and give me the words to say. That’s when I began praying for Israel, our collective soul. I told Him how sorry I was for all the times we as a people bowed down to the fear… for all the times we lacked emuna and trusted in other nations, rather than trusting in Him, for all the times we hurt him and for our lack of gratitude. I explained to Him how torturous it is to have this fear, how after all the traumas it is in our cells, and how it blinds us from seeing and believing He is there with us. I asked Him to have mercy and compassion and help us because deep down we feel like scared, orphaned and helpless three-year-olds being chased by giants. I asked Him to give us His free gift of emuna, to heal our wounds, and help us to fear only Him.


After only about 10 minutes, the fear completely evaporated. My prayers had taken me from my self-absorbed trash bin and connected me to the bigger picture and a much higher place – love and awe of Hashem and love and compassion for the Jewish people. By connecting to this place, we connect to Hashem’s deepest heart and to the essence of every Jew. Within this place truth, courage, strength and emuna abound. There is no room for crocodiles. Let the crocodiles deal with the crocodiles while we go on with our lives serving Hashem, making a place for Him to dwell on the earth and preparing for the time of Moshiach. May he come speedily!

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