They Thought They’d Bury Us But Didn’t Realize We Were Seeds

MassacreSliderSorrow. Anger. Numbness. Disbelief. Those are the emotions that have been swirling around inside me ever since I heard the news two nights ago that a group of men who were praying in a synagogue in Har Nof (a neighborhood I lived in for a year when I was nineteen) were literally butchered to death by terrorists with a meat cleaver, an axe, and a gun.

I was feeling so many things, but couldn’t form them into words. So I cried. A few times. I wanted to say something – it was time to post something new here – but we’ve had such a slew of tragedies over the past few months, I was running on empty. I looked to the weekly Torah portion for an idea, but nothing spoke to me. Our sages ask, “Who is truly wise?” and they answer, “He who learns from all people.” So last night, when I saw an old Mexican proverb which brought me comfort, I knew it was the inspiration I wanted to share. They thought they would bury us, but didn’t realize we were seeds.

It so brilliantly sums up the essence of the Jewish people. We have been battered and beaten down throughout the millennia during this long and painful exile. And we keep going. Time and again, we rise up from the ashes–with none more dramatic than from Holocaust to the State of Israel.

This proverb reminded me of something beautiful I read years ago in the book Michtav M’Eliyahu, by the great Rav Dessler. Rav Dessler says that although we don’t perceive it, there is no real difference between nature and miracle. He quotes Maimonides who when discussing the ten plagues tells us that one must be aware and believe that everything that occurs is actually a miracle. Nothing is natural. Everything only happens because of God’s will. If this is true, how can one tell the difference between nature and miracle? Rav Dessler explains that while everything that occurs is a miracle, God puts a process in the world whereby some miraculous events are hidden in the cloak of nature. That means they adhere to the rules of cause and effect. Only in certain circumstances for unique individuals, God acts outside of the cause and effect we know, creating what looks like a miracle to us. (By the way, moments before I learned of the massacre in Har Nof, I was watching this video by Charlene Aminoff who describes how her two year old daughter Gali had drowned and was dead for over three minutes before she miraculously came back to life. Watch it!)

Rav Dessler then begins talking about seeds. One plants a seed in the ground, and in a few weeks it begins to sprout. We know the cause is planting and watering. The effect – sprouting – seems ordinary. But is it really? Does it make sense that when a living seed is buried in the ground, it first decays only to germinate thus producing new life? Rav Dessler asks, “Is it not actually some form of t’chiyas ha’meisim (resurrection of the dead)?” Indeed, it is; if it would happen with a human being, it would be called a miracle, while with a seed, it is called natural and taken for granted.

May God comfort the mourners, orphans and widows. And may our tears water those holy seeds, letting us finally merit a miraculous sprouting and rebirth with the final redemption, speedily in our days.

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Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

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  1. you think haredim might take the message that guns and security are necessary to secure the people of Israel — and not only (if you ask the faithful, not me) prayer?

    These guys were praying.

    The idea that haredim can spend their days in a building studying while the chilonim go to war and patrol the streets and kill terrorists crossing the border or planning missions — is an idea belied by this tragic shooting.

    haredim need to acknowledge the importance of action and join the grunts trying to keep them, and all Israelis, secure.

    tiresome to hear rabbis say the opposite — that their prayers are what really secure the country.

    next time you hear this, remind them that four (plus a cop trying to save them) died in prayer.

    let’s not make Judaism foolish from here on out — let’s not say foolish ideas as if magic protects people who pray.

    let’s be human. really, really, human. and let’s all join the idf when called. no more of the old ways. it makes Judaism look like a little kid’s version of reality — based on magic. magic. magic.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Tuvia but I’m not in the mood to go into blaming mode right now. I agree with you that we need actions in this world and I also believe we need spiritual actions and most importantly, we need unity as a people.

    • Anonymous says:

      How you can say something like this at a time of devastation amongst our people is beyond me. Of course we need actions, but as we’ve seen throughout history actions don’t ensure success either– why, the police officer on the scene sadly lost his life to, so by your logic (that if these men were killed in prayer then prayer doesn’t help) that should prove that action also doesn’t help either (which I don’t agree with either by the way, just hypertherical)

  2. What we have to realize is that if Hashem decided this was their time to die, it wouldn’t matter if anyone there was carrying a weapon.

    • Anonymous says:

      True, but then again that is not an excuse to say, hey let’s do something dangerous and g-d will decide my fate. (Not that I am drawin a comparison here, these men were not doing anything dangerous and I in NO WAY place any ounce of the blame on them, only on those cowards who butchered them).
      On the other hand you also you raise a point that can be a response to another commenter above who senselessly tried to blame the Haredim because they don’t have security; there actually was a police/idf soldier (not sure which) at the scene who tried to defend them but unfortunately he died from his wounds later in the day. So bang goes that theory hey? That if we have security all will be good.

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