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Question - - 02/28/2013
Is it true that people who are religious are generally more at peace?
Answer by Arachim
The Torah urges us again and again not to fear the nations who lived in the Land of Canaan before the Jews conquered it. In Deuteronomy 7:17-18 we find that this fear is normal, and the Torah anticipated it:
If thou shalt say in thy heart: 'These nations are more than I; how will I be able to dispossess them?' Thou shalt not be afraid of them; remember well what the L-rd thy G-d did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt:
The Torah confirms the fact that our enemies may appear to be more powerful than we are. The verse describes them as "nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard it said: 'Who can stand before the sons of Anak?'’ (Deuteronomy 9:1-2)
Despite the seemingly difficult situation, the Torah commands us not to be afraid of them. At first glance, this may seem strange. How can we be commanded NOT to be afraid, if the odds are stacked so heavily against us? Is it wise to ignore obvious facts, to deny reality? Isn't it only natural to tremble with fear in such circumstances?
The question is not merely a historical one, applying to the events described in Deuteronomy. As Jews, over the ages, we have faced powerful enemies and endured suffering during innumerable wars. Today's security situation is not encouraging, in this respect. There were times when our enemies outnumbered us by a factor of ten to one, or a hundred to one, or more. They were physically stronger and more powerful.
Modern Israel's enemies make no secret of their intentions to eliminate the name Israel from the map of the globe. As Amos, the prophet, asked thousands of years ago: "How shall Yaakov survive, for he is small?" And another question, how can one NOT be overcome with fear in such circumstances?
The question is well-founded. Fear is an emotion which cannot be eliminated, or even diminished, by virtue of a command. The only way that apprehension and dread can be banished from one's inner heart is by convincing him that there is nothing to fear. And indeed, when the Torah issues this command not to be afraid, it continues with a reassurance that is calculated to drive away any trace of fear.
When Israel was on its way from Egypt to the Holy Land, the spies sought to prevent the people from continuing on their way to their new homeland, for fear of the powerful natives then dwelling there. Moses reassured them: "Dread not, neither be afraid of them. The L-rd your G-d who goeth before you, He shall fight for you, according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes." (Deuteronomy 1:29-30)
Moses told the nation that the key to banishing fear from their hearts lay in cultivating their awareness that it was the Alm-ghty who was supporting them and caring for them, just as He had done in Egypt.
This faith that the Creator is protecting us, and that He is more powerful than any force concocted by man, is the secret to the calmness you have noted in the religious community. Even in battle, even in the darkest night, Israel declares:
"Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise up against me, even then will I be confident" (Tehillim 29:3) When we are confident that G-d is at our side, there is no reason to fear those who seek to harm us. There is no room for apprehension in a heart that is filled with trust in the Creator.
This principle applies in our times no less than in the past. Fear does not occur only in times of war. Concerns that threaten to overwhelm a person in day-to-day living, such as worry over paying one's bills, can also affect one's life significantly. Our goal should be to enhance our awareness that G-d is always with us, helping us and protecting us. It is He who leads us along our path in life. This awareness will bring us peace of mind, for we know that we have a loving Father watching over us. He is wiser than we, and we are confident that He knows what is best for us and seeks to shower His blessings upon us.
One direct result of this trust is the calmness that you have observed among your religious acquaintances. You, too, can develop this quality, and enjoy its benefits as your own.
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