The פלשתים are waiting to attack. שמואל הנביא has just died. שאול המלך‘s screams to HaShem seem to be unanswered, ignored. In a frantic state, שאול turns to an אשת בעלת אוב, a woman who communicates with the dead, in order to revive שמואל and quash the anxiety and uncertainty in his heart. With his rude awakening, שמואל gives over the terrible news to שאול that the war would be lost and שאול’s life would be taken with it.
This story is the mantra of Tanakh, a repetitive rhythm that rings true from the times of משה through the judges, prophets, and kings. HaShem is consulted with every concern, decision, and hesitation. The feeling of uncertainty never needs to be embraced, because with any hesitation, the איש אלקים is approached and receives guidance from HaShem.
In the world of תנ״ך there is no such concept of uncertainty the way we face it today. We have since lost that intimate and secure connection with HaShem with quick and reliable answers to our every heed. We are left with our intuition, the guidance of those we trust and hold close, and תפילה in the hopes for clarity.
But have we really lost that connection entirely?
In August 2019, HaShem said no to me.
After a few years of back and forth between Eretz Yisrael and America, I finally solidified my decision to move to Israel one final time. I already had plans for the upcoming year with an acceptance letter into the nursing program at Machon Tal. After months of anguish and hesitations, the acceptance into the program signified a new and exciting דרך being paved right before my eyes. But then it all shifted.
I was working on a summer program in Israel when I received an extremely distressing email. The email was a rescinded acceptance from Machon Tal explaining that they no longer could have me in their program. My entire world went shaky, I lost the beautiful and serene sense of security as I tried to put the pieces together in my head. I planned to come back to Eretz Yisrael, and HaShem said no.
Let’s check back to the relationship that שאול המלך had with HaShem and then compare the relationship that we have with HaShem today.
Every decision that שאול made was with the consent of HaShem, in peace and in war. HaShem withholding His guidance at the onset of a war with the פלשתים was too difficult for שאול to accept, and therefore he went to שמואל to receive HaShem’s heartbreaking decree that he would lose the war and lose his life. שאול’s form of communication with HaShem was stripped from him and he went to the extreme of waking שמואל up from the dead, something that שאול himself condemned and was potentially against halakha, in order to revive his communication with HaShem. He could not live in the uncertainty. Additionally, when שאול was given his answer, he knew that HaShem’s words were irrevocable. That was the nature of his relationship with HaShem (at least without תשובה to possibly remove or minimize the decree).
Nowadays we are not privy to the secure and immediate communication with HaShem that once was, but we are privileged to communicate with HaShem in other ways, even if we are left in a state of constant uncertainty. Our conversations with HaShem sometimes feel a bit more one-sided and unanswered, maybe even unheard. With this, the nature of our communication with HaShem is not definitive answers such as the decree that שאול received and the many other forms of communication with HaShem in תנ״ך. The answers HaShem give us are meant to be confronted, even objected, because we are uncertain of HaShem’s intentions. As I re-read the email for the 100th time, I realized that I had to confront HaShem’s answer to me. Even though I felt like HaShem shut the door to Eretz Yisrael in my face, I decided to object; I was not going to take no for an answer.
Uncertainty is a constant feeling in our lives, especially in the crucial, significant decisions. It is fair to yearn for the relationship that שאול and many others had with HaShem, not faced with the anxiety and uncertainty of what will be, but at the same time, we must acknowledge that our relationship with HaShem is special and complex in that we have a large say in the conversation. You will not know HaShem’s intention or where He will guide you, but you do know that you are uncertain, and through that you have the option to push and object for what you want and make it happen.
So the answer to my question is no, we have not entirely lost that connection with HaShem. Rather we have built something, in my opinion, much stronger and more sustainable. We have the ability to converse with HaShem through our uncertainty of what He is asking from us.
The decision to start your life in Israel is a hard and uncertain one, but that is the beauty in the process. The uncertainty is what ultimately gives you a say in your discussion with HaShem and in a successful future. As I sit in my second semester of nursing school, I already have countless notches on my belt signifying the times that I objected to HaShem's apparent “no” and kept pushing through the uncertainty. Brene Brown got it right when she said, “There are no guarantees when we step into the unknown, but these periods of discomfort can give rise to life’s most important adventures.”
The process is unpredictable and every person has different experiences. The challenges are always present and the uncertainty is usually laying on the back-burner even when things are calm, but that uncertainty is present in any situation in any place in the world. Whether making a simple decision or fundamental, life-changing decision such as moving to Israel, let uncertainty be your tool to empower yourself and your decisions. Let your uncertainty confront HaShem and when it feels as if He is saying “no,” object with a resounding “no” in return, because it is He who is giving you the ability to push through the uncertainty and achieve all of your dreams.
Chana Waintraub, originally from New Jersey, did her sherut leumi at Marpeh LaNefesh, a rehabilitation facility for people with mental illness. Chana is now studying nursing at Machon Tal.