I sleep well, probably once every five nights. This ratio is resonant of advice I was given about my picky eater son when he was a toddler – as long as he eats one in five meals he’s good. It was a lesson for me back then that it is ok to find hope in less.
Such is the experience of hope for the Jewish people.
In our journey through the Omer leading to Shavuot and the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, we have arrived at the theme of Hope. Hope is here in the week of greatest Hope for the Jewish people –the 75th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. For our people, Hope lies in the knowledge that even in the face of the greatest evil, or the most difficult challenge, there is the ability to find some small thread of Hope, even when the odds seem small.
How small? Look down at whatever you’re wearing and find the smallest thread of the fabric you can see. For the Jewish people, the literal understanding of the word for Hope in Hebrew is also the word for that small thread.
In the Book of Joshua, a pair of Joshua’s spies are assisted by a prostitute from Jericho.
Her name is Rachav and she protects the spies by hiding them from enemies. For her kindness in protecting them, the spies tell her to let a small red thread hang out her window when the city is attacked. She is instructed to bring all her family to her home and as long as that red thread is there, she and her family will be protected. As the walls of her city of Jericho come tumbling down, that displayed red string will give protection to her family.
The Hebrew word for that string? Tikvah. Yes. The Hebrew word for the string that will protect Rachav’s family as her city is destroyed around her is tikvah.
The Hebrew word for this small piece of thread is the same Hebrew word for hope. Hatikvah, The Hope. With this teaching, Dr. Michael Marmur teaches that “this can be understood to say hope exists, even if it is as small as a thread, it exists. In a moment of despair and destruction, the literal red thread and its name of tikvah lays out for us that hope found even in the minutiae is still hope.”
It is said the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, was so protective of Hatikvah, the anthem entitled Hope, that when a conductor seemingly altered the song’s tune during a state ceremony in 1958, he wanted the conductor reprimanded, Haaretz quoted the late prime minister saying in a 2004 article.
“After the fact it was clarified that it wasn’t improvisation, rather the orchestra couldn’t see the conductor because of horrible lighting,” the newspaper reported.
That “horrible lighting” is a great metaphor for all of us that even if tears, or pain, or war, or any element of our unsettled world filters our world view, that even if we are able to see the smallest sliver of light coming through the cracks of a broken world, there is hope to be found.