Cover Story

How to Build Hope – Hope Amid Crisis


In the face of tragedy, we often find ourselves suddenly grappling, in desperate search of hope, optimism, faith and resilience. During the relatively tranquil course of day-to-day life, these features of inner strength typically receive little attention or cultivation. It is only when faced with life’s inexplicable and most challenging moments that we urgently seek understanding and engage in a search for faith. This reactive approach leaves us scrambling to develop the emotional and spiritual resources we have until then neglected. While it is never too late to foster a more hopeful, optimistic and faith-based outlook, it is crucial to recognize the importance of nurturing these qualities during our better days. Doing so not only enriches our everyday experiences but also fills a reservoir of inner strength that we may then draw from in times of adversity. A proactive approach to personal growth ensures that we are better prepared not just when tragedy strikes but throughout life’s journey.

This insight offers a deeper understanding of the pasuk in Yirmiyahu (17:7): “Baruch hagever asher yivtach baHashem v’hayah Hashem mivtacho—Blessed is the one who trusts in Hashem, whose confidence is in Him.” At first glance, this pasuk appears to be repetitive: it states that those who have faith in Hashem are blessed, and then mentions confidence in Him. However, this seeming redundancy holds a deeper meaning. The Sefas Emes interprets this pasuk as a charge, encouraging us to develop a deep faith and trust in Hashem, particularly during life’s more tranquil moments. At times during which the challenges we face seem manageable and the blessings in our life more apparent, we should seize the opportunity to focus, deliberately and intentionally, on Hashem’s abundant kindness and compassion. By doing so, we will hopefully succeed in building a strong foundation of faith upon which to stand during life’s tumultuous and challenging times. This proactive approach fills us with a healthy reserve, ensuring that we have a robust spiritual support system to draw from when we need it most. It enables us to enter a “fortress of faith” built during calmer times, rather than frantically seeking shelter during a storm. 

As devout Jews, we understand that surface appearances can be deceptive.

The reality, however, is that life often presents moments for which we find ourselves unprepared. Despite our best intentions, we frequently find ourselves caught off guard, struggling to maintain our equilibrium. In times of unforeseen adversity, how can we anchor ourselves to Hashem and fortify our spiritual resilience, especially when our prior preparations to build a foundation of emunah may have been less than ideal?  

Our daily recitation of Shema constitutes a profound method for cultivating faith, particularly during challenging times. The ritual practice of covering one’s eyes is well-known. The common understanding is that this act aids in concentrating our focus, shielding us from distractions as we affirm our devotion to Hashem. Yet one could ask: why is this gesture not applied to mitigate distractions during other prayers? To answer this, we need to explore the meaning behind this practice within the broader context of prayer and faith. 

Through our experience of this world, we often encounter apparent injustices: we see good people suffering and wicked people prospering. As devout Jews, we understand that surface appearances can be deceptive. We hold a deep-seated belief that Hashem’s actions, though often incomprehensible to us, serve a higher purpose and are ultimately for the greater good, aligning in ways beyond our understanding. We understand that while we cannot always decipher the justice in events unfolding before us, there is a cosmic equation where “the numbers all add up.”

Our physical senses, especially our sight, frequently confront us with images that have the potential to undermine our faith. While our vision appears to offer a clear, unfiltered view of the world, it exposes us to harsh realities that can be overwhelming. These visual experiences often narrate a story that clouds our capacity to perceive and believe in the underlying purpose of the events unfolding around us. The dichotomy between what we see and what we believe tests our ability to maintain faith amidst the complexities of the physical world. We cover our eyes during the moment of kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim, which is what the first paragraph of Shema is all about, to create a symbolic severance from our physical senses, a deliberate choice to forgo our reliance on our natural windows to the world. By obscuring our physical vision, we open ourselves to a higher level of perception, acknowledging that there exists a reality far greater than what our eyes can see. This gesture is especially significant during times of crisis or tragedy, when the perceivable world offers little hope. It serves as a powerful reminder of our enduring belief, an affirmation that despite the darkest times, the sun will rise again. Covering our eyes reinforces our understanding that true insight and hope lie beyond the scope of our five senses, in the realm of unwavering faith in Hashem.


Rabbi Larry Rothwachs serves as senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck, New Jersey, and director of professional rabbinics at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. In January 2023, Rabbi Rothwachs was appointed as the founding rabbi of Meromei Shemesh, a new community currently under construction in Ramat Beit Shemesh.


More in this Section

The Tenacity of Our Nation by Michal Horowitz

Bitachon During Crisis by Rebbetzin Dina Schoonmaker as told to Barbara Bensoussan

The Psychology of Hope by Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox

Not for Naught by Rabbi Dov Foxbrunner

Responding to Crisis: A Historical Approach by Dr. Henry Abramson

Celebrating Life in the Face of Pain: One Son Married, One Son Missing by Toby Klein Greenwald

Of Faith and Fortitude: How Devorah Paley Energized a Nation by Yocheved Lavon

A Laughing Matter by Carol Green Unger

This article was featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
We'd like to hear what you think about this article. Post a comment or email us at