1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
Strangely enough, there is no word that expresses the word “resilience” in Hebrew. Perhaps that’s because the Jewish people themselves encapsulate everything there is to know about resiliency: the ability to rise above and find new strengths despite any setbacks. That’s what we’ve been doing since the birth of our nation, and this capability reaches all the way back in our DNA to our patriarchs and matriarchs, none of whose transcendent lives could otherwise be described as smooth or easy. A full study of resilience in Judaism would be master’s level work of several years. The Book of Psalms—the go to book in sorrow and joy for Jews throughout the ages—is itself a study in resiliency, as King David’s powerful entreaties alongside his declaration of trust in ultimate triumph really depict everything there is to say and feel on the subject. Still, this small collection of post-Biblical quotes should give our readers a mini smorgasbord of insights into this vital element of Jewish living. Some of these quotes lead to resilience, others exhibit the quality of resilience, and others present the new capabilities gained from a resilient journey. But all are deserving of deep reflection… and considerable effort to integrate them into our minds.
Even if an unsheathed sword lies upon a man’s neck, he should not withhold himself from G-d’s mercy. —Brachot 10a
Three ways are open to a person in sorrow: One who stands on a normal rung weeps; one on a higher level is silent; but the highest converts sorrow into song. —R’ Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
There is no greater joy for G‑d than the light and joy caused by transforming darkness into light, as the light has the superior quality acquired by coming out of the very darkness. This is the meaning of the verse, “Let Israel rejoice in its Maker”: Every Jew ought to rejoice in the joy of G‑d, who is happy and joyous with His abode in the actual physical world. G-d’s joy is aroused when, through a Jew’s faith in G‑d’s unity, all negativity is transformed into light. —Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya
A blessing is only present in something that is hidden from view.—Talmud, Taanit 8a
Be soft like a reed, not strong like a cedar. —Talmud, Taanit 20a
The essence of trust is the peace of mind of the person who has trust. He relies on the person in whom he is trusting to do what is good and correct for him… He is certain that: 1. The person will follow through, and 2. The person will even do good that was never stipulated, as an act of kindness… When it becomes clear that G-d possesses these qualities, a person will trust G-d, and give himself over to His will. He will leave the directing of his life’s circumstances to Providence, and he will not suspect that G-d is judging him improperly. —Rabbeinu Bachaya ibn Paquda, The Gate of Trust
It is written, “For you (the people of Israel) shall be a desirable land, says G‑d” (Malachi 3:12). Just as the greatest explorers will never uncover the limits of the great and valuable resources which the Almighty has placed within the earth, neither will anyone ever discover the limits of the great treasures which lie buried within a Jew—G‑d’s “desirable land.” —The Baal Shem Tov
All beginnings require you to unlock a new door. —Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Our Sages say that “one is obligated to say the world was created for me.” The word for world, “olam,” has four distinct meanings in Hebrew: A physical world, concealment, youthful strength, and time. The message in this statement is now deeper and richer: A person is obligated to consider and reflect upon their world, and to recognize that any seeming negativity that I see at any particular place and time, was created for me to uncover the G-dliness hidden within it. At the very same time, within that “concealment” is also locked the strength that I have been given to uncover the inner truth—that it is but a facade over the G-dliness that enlivens it all. —Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch
The Hebrew word “Nes” has several meanings: a miracle, a challenge, and a banner. The three unrelated homonyms then express a powerful message: The purpose of a challenge is to lift you up (like a banner). We overcome challenges by lifting ourselves higher. And the meaning of challenges, as is the purpose of miracles, is to show the inner truth of the world: that nothing exists besides G-d.—The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
How do lobsters grow? A lobster is a soft, mushy animal that lives inside a rigid shell. That rigid shell does not expand. As the lobster grows, the shell becomes very confining, and the lobster feels itself under pressure and uncomfortable. It goes under a rock formation, casts off the old shell, and produces a new one. Eventually, that shell becomes very uncomfortable as the lobster continues to grow. The lobster repeats this numerous times. The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable. Likewise, we have to realize that times of stress are also times for growth, and if we use adversity properly, we can grow properly. —Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski
This is how to deal with crisis: Wrestle with it, refusing to let it go until it blesses you, until you emerge stronger, better or wiser than you were before. To be a Jew is not to accept defeat. That is the meaning of faith. —Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Originally published in the Three Weeks 5782 Jewish-American Warrior