Little kids can be stubborn, but sometimes my youngest daughter takes it to a new heights.
Last year we arrived at a Baskin Robbins 15 minutes after it had had closed. She refused to acknowledge this fact. “It’s not closed!” she pleaded.
“But look at the sign,” we said.
“The sign’s wrong,” she insisted.
Such stubbornness drives my wife and me crazy. It is also unhealthy. Limitations are a part of life.
Yet, great leader have always come up against and overcome limitations. A fine line separates courage from craziness. Sometimes what seems impossible is not.
The Stubborn Jacob
The Jewish patriarch Jacob knew this truth. When his sons tell Jacob of their brother Joseph’s death, Jacob initially seems to believe them. He rents his clothes and mourns. Yet, as we soon read, he refuses to be comforted. He says he will die in mourning for his son.
While we can understand his hurt, this reaction raises questions. Jewish law prescribes a specific period for mourning.
After a year, we remember a loved one, but active mourning ends. Jacob, however, does not stop mourning.
We might say his continued grief reflects the severity of his loss. How can one ever get over the loss of a child?
Yet, the Jewish sages offered a different explanation. They teach that “We can stop mourning for one who is dead. But we can never stop for one who is still living.”
Jacob did not stop mourning because because he was not convinced Joseph was dead. He mourns because he knows his others sons have some culpability for Joseph’s disappearance. They hated him, and Jacob suspects they have done something awful to him.
Finding Hope After Brussels
But he refuses to give up hope. He refuses to stop believing that Joseph may still be alive. As we learn a few chapters later, his hope bears fruit. Joseph is alive and well and living in Egypt.
In the wake of terrorism and murders in Brussels– as we confront a world filled with tragedy–Jacob’s faith can guide us. We do not need to believe the impossible. We do not need to ignore or deny the reality and threat of terrorism.
But as it was for Jacob, hope is not lost. The possibility of a better world–one without terrorism and with freedom–still beckons to us. We may not see it in our lifetime. But, as 18th century rabbi Nachman of Breslov put it, there is one thing we may never do: Despair.