With all the shutdowns, quarantines, layoffs and general pandemic pandemonium, I have often found myself feeling like I’m in the midst of an episode of the Twilight Zone. But the storm of uncomfortable feelings and questions about the near future go well beyond that. According to plan, right now I thought I would be living a dream, reaping the fruits of over a year of work to put together the Jerusalem Marathon Christian Pilgrimage Tour with Ryan and Sara Hall. At a time when I imagined I would literally be running around the Land of Israel with a group of dedicated runners and amazing individuals, running in the Jerusalem Marathon, and taking part in running workshops with Ryan and Sara Hall—two of the most decorated and well-known American runners in history—I instead find myself in the midst of what feels like an apocalyptic shutdown.
Foreigners are banned from entering Israel. Schools, restaurants, cafes, entertainment venues, national parks, offices, and whatever else you can imagine are closed. A significant portion of the population is either being put on unpaid vacation or simply laid off. Israeli citizens have been ordered by the government—under threat of fines or arrest—not to gather in groups of over 10 people, and to stay at home unless they fall under a very short list of reasons the government has deemed as necessary for going out into public space.
In the midst of the madness, I find myself time and again thinking of a well-known story about the Chassidic Rebbe, Reb Zusha of Hanipol. Reb Zusha was famous for the tremendous depth and sincerity of his faith in G-d. He also was famous for being extremely poor. In fact, Reb Zusha was so poor that he never really knew where his next meal would come from. Nonetheless, he never worried and was never anxious. He had so much faith that G-d would provide him with his next meal, that he was totally at peace.
One day, Reb Zusha woke up to the threatening screams of the poritz (Polish landlord) who demanded that Zusha pay him his debt of 30 rubles by the end of the day. Of course, Reb Zusha did not have the 30 rubles. So he made a list of 25 ways that G-d was going to provide him with the money by the end of the day, then went off to do his business. When he came back home at the end of the day, low and behold, he had the 30 rubles. But there was a catch. They did not come from one of the 25 ways on his list. At this Zusha said to himself,
“Zusha, you fool. You think G-d is limited by your list? You think G-d is limited by your human imagination? G-d has no limits! Both his ways and his kindness are unlimited and beyond what you could possibly imagine!”
Things may not always turn out as planned. Uncertainty may be the norm. But we can never forget that we have a powerful weapon against disappointment, anxiety, and fear: faith. Through faith in G-d, faith in our loved ones, and faith in ourselves we can be certain that whatever challenge we face, in the end, we are going to be ok.
Recently, a tourist on one of my City of David tours asked me to explain the origins of Kaddish and why it is that the text focuses on life, peace, an...