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Friday, 3 July, 2015 - 2:19 pm





It was around nine in the morning last Friday when I received a call from Israel. On the phone was a woman I have known for a while since her days in Georgia. She was calling about her daughter, who was returning home to Europe via a different country, and was denied entry into that country.


Despite just being in transit, the immigration department in that neighboring country wanted this woman out that Friday afternoon. She elected to go to London, where my parents and some of my siblings live. This phone call was a request for me to make the necessary arrangements.


I had just begun to battle with, what turned out to be, a terrible case of the flu. The remnants of this misery is just leaving me today, as I write these words. The majority of that day was spent off my feet. My head and body were aching, and were begging me just to stop everything. I figured that a couple of phone calls should settle this urgent task.


It took me over two hours, though, to make any headway with these arrangements, for reasons not relevant here. And as it went, this raging flu continued making a wreck out of me. When arrangements had finally been made, I contacted the passenger, who was heading to catch her flight to London.


Getting into England these days is also not a piece of cake. I remained with the passenger on the phone as she embarked on her one-hour flight, to see her through all the scenarios, and to have her completely prepared. We also needed to make transportation arrangements, so she should arrive at her destination in London prior to Shabbos.


As time moved on, every word I said was becoming increasingly exhausting. I needed to shut out the outside world for a couple of hours. Once she is safely in England, I thought, I am going to do just that.


The line for British immigration, however, was enormous. It took this poor woman about forty-five minutes to get through it. And she really needed me then, as she was extremely nervous. We were “talking” back and forth over the whatsapp text message service, and over the loud objections of my entire body. I was repeating the instructions, with names, numbers and addresses of where she was going to stay.


And then she informed me that she was next in line. “I’m scared,” she wrote. “Please pray for me.” I encouraged her to calm down, put her trust in the Hands of the Almighty, and just not be afraid.


After five to ten minutes of not hearing from her, I realized that this was not going to be smooth. Just then, she contacted me that she was being detained by immigration, with less than an hour to Shabbos. “I’m really scared now,” she wrote. “What if I spend the Shabbos in jail?”


I could not blame her for being scared, but I also could not let her give up hope. I needed to encourage her. After thinking it through, I realized: This woman has done nothing wrong. It is not illegal to arrive in England without a visa. She was not lying that she is spending the next couple of nights with the Lew family. She is not with false papers. There was no reason for her not to be allowed into Great Britain. And so, with my strength seriously waning, I said she must absolutely not be afraid. She will not be there for Shabbos. I insisted she tell me she is not scared or afraid, and that she will trust in the Almighty.


She was out of there within a few minutes. I was out cold within seconds…


There are legitimate concerns out there, not merely phobias. One locks doors at night for security reasons. One also looks to avoid unhealthy foods or places. Parents must be extremely vigilant for their children’s welfare. These, however, are not about “fear,” per se.


Fear normally paralyzes a person. It emplaces a person in a “freeze” mode. One cannot think straight, or act rationally. One must overcome fear in order to deal with whatever is causing the fright.


The Torah records people who were legitimately in fear. One of those is Moses, towards the end of last week’s portion. His fear was from an enemy who seemed to have the upper hand due to the merit of a good deed. The Almighty told Moses not to be afraid, as this merit will not help. (Bamidbar (Numbers) 21:34.) In this week’s portion, “Balak,” the person named Balak, king of the Moabites, “Became terrified of Israel because they were numerous.” (22:3.) They said: “This community (of Jewish people) is now going to gnaw away at everything around us, just as an ox in the field eats up vegetation.” (22:4.) As a result of this fear, Balak hired a Jew-hating prophet, Bilaam, to curse the people and get rid of them. This was foiled, as the portion records.


In truth, Balak had nothing to fear. The Torah records elsewhere (D’varim (Deuteronomy) 2:9) that the Jewish people were forbidden to besiege Moab, or to incite them to war. Had King Balak maintained a grip over his fears and, instead, intelligently investigated the situation, he would have discovered that his fears were completely unfounded.


But that is the nature of fear: It is in the mind. People imagine outcomes and conclusions of how others may react, or how a story is bound to unfold, and the overwhelming majority of the time, they are figments of imaginations and complete fantasy.


It becomes even more pronounced when a person really needs to think, but is hampered by fear.


It takes two strong steps to overcome fear: 1) to properly and legitimately break the situation down in the mind, and focus on the more reasonable and probable outcome, 2) to place trust – not just faith, but trust – in the Almighty, in Whose Hands is every outcome. Then, and only then, one can go ahead in confidence.


When the woman thanked me after the Shabbos, I reminded her of the above lessons: Life does not normally follow the mind’s imaginative script. Every aspect of life is planned by Divine providence. Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen – even if it meant that I needed to spend many hours, not minutes, on this saga. It is up to the person to be prepared to the best of his or her ability. The rest will happen as it should.


So why be afraid?



SUMMARY: To be afraid is to give in to creative imagination. Life goes according to a Divine plan, not a creative imagination.


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