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Triumph in the Face of Terror

by Dr. Yisroel Suskind


Library » Philosophy » Religion | Subscribe | What is RSS?


What is terrorism? From the psychological perspective, it is an act that awakens an underlying fear, shared by all of us, that we will lose control over our lives. According to many psychologists, all people have irrational “neurotic“ behaviors because we all face the universal “existential condition”—we perceive the universe as a chaotic place, tormented by our awareness that we will die. According to this view, we are all passengers on a bus, rolling down a narrow mountain road, and there is no bus driver.

Psychologists assert that we use denial to avoid consciously experiencing our helplessness, meaninglessness and mortality. We wear lenses that blur our perception of vulnerability, providing us with the comforting illusion of control.

When events shatter a community’s protective lenses, many individuals experience the symptoms of “existential anxiety” and post-traumatic stress. Some of the current symptoms described in the media—such as nightmares and preoccupations involving airline hijackings or biological warfare—are obviously related to terrorism. Other symptoms—such as insomnia, fatigue, anxiety or depression, abuse of food, alcohol or drugs—have a less direct link. Yet others have more subtle connections: For example, in my work as a family therapist, I am seeing more signs of irritability and marital conflict.
How do we cope with our fears?

Rather than fearing our inability to control our lives, we can feel that there is a Divine power... Who acts with wisdom and caring
Judaism teaches that the source of this anxiety, the perception that ”no one is driving the bus,” is a mis-perception. There is “a Driver.” Rather than fearing our inability to control our lives, we can feel in our hearts that there is a Divine power that controls it all, Who acts with wisdom and caring, even though His actions may be beyond our ability to understand.
We live with a paradox; we have the responsibility to do everything in our power to take control of our lives, while at the same time G-d may decide on a totally different outcome.

Once an ambassador of a king stopped a Jewish peasant on the street. “Where are you going?” the ambassador asked. “I can’t tell you,” answered the peasant. Enraged by his answer, the ambassador brought him to the court, where he stood before the king. “Do you mean to mock me?” asked the king. “Not at all, sire,” he said, “We Jews believe G-d controls everything. Just this morning I thought I was heading to Warsaw, and look where I am now.”


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(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.