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Elul Reflection: 4 Elul 5778

4 Elul 5778
15 August 2018

We Are Never Alone

For two long weeks this winter – an eternity in our relentless 24-hour news cycle, the world’s attention focused on Thailand and the plight of thirteen young men trapped in deepest darkness within the Tham Luang Cave network. The survivors’ will to live, the skill and determination of the rescue teams, and the love and mutuality of all concerned resulted in a victory against all odds.

Stories like this one and the 2006 Beaconsfield mining rescue in Tasmania have an unusual power to lift our spirits and bring us hope. But what is it about these operations - beyond the normal degree of empathy one might expect of us, which capture our hearts and rivet us to our televisions?

Perhaps it is the cave’s deeply personal, metaphoric power.   Though most of us will not, God willing, ever find ourselves trapped below the earth, many will recall, or may now find ourselves in tough spots, frightened by what the future may bring, uncertain how life’s dark shroud will ever be lifted from upon us.

Maybe it is the will to live. Those who contend with illness or emotional distress or try to face down financial reversal; that struggle with loneliness or loss can all easily imagine and readily relate to others who are trapped, seemingly without hope of rescue but possessed of a fierce determination to survive.

Friends, Joseph was cast into a gloomy well, and later thrown into a prison cell, but was ultimately delivered. Holocaust survivors emerged from the impenetrable darkness of the Shoah because they refused to allow despair to paralyse them. The State of Israel, the hope of millennia, has overcome odds time and again not only because there was no other choice but also due to the bravery of her fighters, the fortitude of its citizens and the unbreakable solidarity of its supporters across the Jewish world.

In each case, those who have survived have decided to “choose life”, to have faith in the future and to reach out to others, just as we must, no matter our circumstances. So why do we relate so much to the rescue of the Thai boys? Because at times we are like them: trapped in a cave, residing in darkness and afraid of what the future holds. Happily, however, this season promises and the recent heroic rescue operation attests: we are never entirely alone.

--Rabbi Gary J Robuck

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