Flame of Resilience
By Rabbi Daniel Sackstein
Overview: The Jewish Approach to Triumph & Tragedy.

This remarkable journey called life is made up of peaks and valleys, triumphs and disappointments. King David writes in Psalm 92, “It is good to thank Hashem…; to relate your kindness in the morning and your faith in the nights”.

There are times when we enjoy the kindness of Hashem, in the form of good heath, prosperity & nachas. Those times are referred to as the morning, when G-d’s blessings are clearly visible. There is also nighttime. Those difficult periods of darkness. When we lose a loved one, a deep, dark shadow descends on our world.

As Jews we don’t believe in any old system. G-d has a perfect track record. G-d took us out of Egypt 3336 years ago with supernatural miracles and appeared to the entire nation, three million people, at Mount Sinai. Every other religion is based on the revelation of one single person.
In addition to this watertight tradition, we see G-d in every moment of our lives. Whether we focus on the breathtaking detail of every organ in the human body functioning in harmony as a magnificent single organism, or we look at the vast world we live in from the great nuclear reactor in the sky, to the exquisite natural world especially here in Africa. It is clear and obvious to the rational mind that all of this is not a random accident, but the deliberate design of an intelligent creator.

Just as the world is not arbitrary or coincidental, so too everything that happens in our lives both individually and communally, is tailor made by G-d. Everything is an opportunity for the development of the soul. Most of what happens to us is out of our control. It is up to us to choose how to react to our circumstances. We could be filled with arrogance and self-aggrandisement during the good times and bitterness and resentment during the darkness.

Sometimes the darkness is thick and debilitating, especially when we are an Avel. We can lose our way and become consumed with despair. Our holy tradition teaches us that our suffering is purposeful.
It is a necessary part of our journey that we don’t understand. G-d said to Job after a life of tragedy and suffering, “Where were you when the world was created?”

Our lives are a brief blip in the long timeline of the soul. We are here for five short minutes in a three-hour movie. Our souls have been to this world before. This life is an opportunity to rectify those deficiencies in our souls that need perfection. We don’t have access to the Divine computer. Our perspective and understanding is extremely limited. The knowledge that our loved one has fulfilled their mission in this world is comforting. Their soul has now moved on the next stop, the next stage in its development. We are experiencing an indescribable pain. The pain is real and valid. We sit Shiva and face that loss. Our work is to trust in Hashem. To place it in an envelope and hand it to Hashem. Our challenge is to accept that which we don’t understand.

One of our primary goals in life is to train ourselves to thank G-d for the abundance of blessings showered upon us, “to relate your kindness in the morning”, and to develop resilience in faith in the times of darkness, “and your faith in the nights”.

Rabbi Daniel Sackstein
Rabbi Sackstein is the Rabbi of the Sunny Road Kehilla in Johannesburg. After completing his BA in Psychology at Wits Rabbi Sackstein went to Jerusalem to learn Torah full time for 9 years. He is married to Deanne. After six years in Cape Town in various Rabbinic positions, the Sacksteins returned to Jhb where they have been leading the Sunny Road Kehillah for the past 15 years. The Sacksteins are the proud parents of five children and they have one grandchild.