It’s 5:30 in the morning here. We were a half-hour from Meron when we heard the news. Without hesitation, we immediately turned around and headed back home, watching an endless stream of emergency vehicles rush past us in the other direction.

I can’t sleep. I’m trying to work out my feelings, process different possible approaches on the awesome tragedy that has befallen am Yisrael, and identify the one I feel rings truest for me in this impossibly difficult moment.

Here, I must thank a chaver who wrote me a little while ago, expressing pain over his own spiritual struggles as well as what happened tonight in Meron. Strangely enough, the juxtaposition he drew between his brokenness over personal struggles and the great tragedy in Meron was helpful to me, and I want to tell you why.

I was at a wedding earlier tonight, an amazing wedding with some enormously special guests in attendance, among them, hagaon hagadol Rav Tzvi Cheshin shlita, one of the Breslover gedolim, a world-renowned genius and talmud chacham. I overheard as an American bochur hesitantly approached Reb Tzvi by the chuppa and asked him, “What does the Rav recommend I do so I can win my battle with the yetzer hara?”

Rav Tzvi looked at him over his glasses and smiled wryly.

“Win?” he exclaimed.

“One is not sent here to win. One is sent here to fight. You see, you’re sweet, but you are not an angel. Angels? There are millions of those – and they all win! But there is only one of you, and your fight is infinitely precious to Hashem.”

All of life is “ratzo v’shov”, running and returning, ebb and flow. Hopefully, with time, the battles progress to a more elevated terrain. But the first thing to do when we taste our humanity once more is to feel the pain of our failures, express regret, get in touch with our true identity and essential desire within, and put safeguards in place to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Then, our avodah is to move on – with simcha and confidence. To remember that this process is not b’dieved. That teshuvah is a mitzvah d’oraysa. And that it’s the struggles we endure that create the tension necessary for the possibility of a fight, the fight Hashem so desires. Be”H we will stand up from our slip ups humbled, wiser, aware of the danger that ever lurks in the background and the need for constant vigilance. But we will also stand up with the endless joy and confidence of knowing that this is all part of the journey, part of our quest for authenticity.

There are no words to convey our feelings about what happened tonight. There are so many angles to consider, each one more heartbreaking than the next. And many of them deserve nothing more and nothing less than silence alone. “Vayidom Ahron.”

But we must always remember what Rebbe Nachman taught us – “Everything that happens in the world is solely to test our emunah.”

What are our options right now?

Despair? Satan incarnate.

Give up hope? Sitra achara.

It seems that we have no choice but to feel the bitter pain and blackness of our collective loss and the unbearably broken hearts of the wives, mothers, and children of those who were lost, to mourn it in the deepest way. And somehow, at the very same time, to keep our chin up – to march onward with firm conviction in Hashem’s desire for our service despite His apparent “slap in the face”. To believe in all the good we contain within and add on even more, with confidence that this is what He truly wants of us, beyond the terrifying mask of His wrath.

Hashem wants the impossible struggle. He wants our current confusion. Because He believes in our ability to allow the brilliant light of emunah, simcha, chizzuk, and azus d’kedusha to triumph over even the most fearsome and unexplainable darkness, to grant us the strength to continue forging on.

May we use our personal struggles to help us express our pain over the terrible tragedy we witnessed tonight. May we use the tragedy to deepen our pain over the brokenness we experience within. But also, even at the very same time, may we remember what we are collectively being called upon to do in this defining moment in time: To march onward, to march upward – not despite the tragedy but because of it, because it was this light of Rebbe Shimon the victims were in Meron celebrating in the first place, because this is their legacy: that whatever horrific decree it was that swallowed them up is utterly, entirely, and eternally powerless against our national spirit and the mighty endurance woven into the DNA of our Jewishness.

“Hazorim b’dimah, b’rinah…” – “With tears and with joy, with joy and with tears.”

Umacha Hashem dimah mei’al kol panim.

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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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