Friday, August 18, 2006

We Can't Go Back Down

The more than 30 days of the most recent war were heart-wrenching for the whole country. Every person, on some level, was worried, stressed, strained. Most of all, we were afraid. And what frightened us most was the thought that soldiers would continue to be killed. But we were strong. We understood just how necessary it was that we go to war. But at the same time we were frightened out of our wits at the price we might have to pay (and did).

But something happened that brought home to me just what is going on here, something that in my humble opinion would be a good thing for all of us to keep in mind. What happened was that my oldest son went on a trip with his summer camp.

Akiva is 12 years old. He’s almost a stereotypical yeshiva kid: chubby and pale, with thick glasses—physically fit he’s not. He also happens to be afraid of heights. Last erev Pesach on our family outing we had some tough moments where he was almost frozen with fear. Somehow, we didn’t consider that when he left in the morning for camp, and neither did he. Nevertheless, he went off on the trip, to Ein Bokek. Ein Bokek is a spring near Ein Gedi, in the Dead Sea area. If you’ve ever been around there you know that there are high cliffs.

When they got to Ein Bokek, Akiva did not want to climb. His counselor cajoled him into trying. So up he went, but at some point he became hysterical. The head counselor stayed with him and the whole camp went on. Finally, when Akiva still refused to continue, the head counselor phoned me. I said to Akiva, “You can do this.” “I can’t!” “You can. You did Wadi Kelt [erev pesach] and you can do this.” “I can’t.” “Akiva, sweetheart, you have to go forward.” “I can’t! I want to go back down!” “You can. You can move forward. You can’t go back down. You have to move forward” “I can’t!” “I’ll get you a big prize.” “I don’t want a prize! I want to go back down!”

We went back and forth, me trying to encourage him, him insisting he couldn’t go. Finally, I’m not sure what I said, but he agreed to try. About 30 minutes later the head counselor called again to say that they were moving forward, that Akiva’s counselor was with them. He did do it, and he even felt pretty good. Though I’d venture a guess that he’ll refuse to do it again, or anything he thinks is a similar experience.

That’s the mashal (though it’s a true story). Then, that same evening, I attended my first military funeral. Listening to the hespedim, I looked heavenward and spoke to Hashem. I usually address Hashem as “Ribon Olamim” or “Hashem” or “Avinu shebashamayim”. But I looked up and said, “Abba! We can’t do this anymore. We can’t go through more of these deaths. Abba! We can’t! We CAN’T!” Suddenly, I understood. I understood …

We are all Akiva. We are all Akiva! We are all on this cliff. We’re petrified. It’s scary! It’s difficult. We cannot go back. We cannot climb down, and we certainly cannot stay where we are. Whatever is necessary for us to do, we have to do. We have to keep struggling. We CAN do it. We ARE working towards a prize, a very big one. Our Father has promised it, and He will deliver.

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