I Will Not be Afraid, for G-d is with Me!
BY TZVIYA PORAT MANDEL
“Whoa, whoa, what’s this?” My father was standing over me, a bursting knapsack slung over his left shoulder.
“Nothing,” I said.
He looked at the salty streaks my tears had made upon my face and stooped toward me. “What happened?”
I began crying again. Between ragged breaths, I told him the whole story: how my sister Ayelet had stood there and what I’d said and how we’d run away from her, and how the kids had imitated her and laughed at her, and so had I, because I’d been embarrassed of Ayelet and afraid they’d laugh at me.
“And where is Ayelet now?” asked my father.
“At home,” I said. “With Mom.”
My father was silent. He often thought before he started talking, and I didn’t always have the patience to wait. But sometimes crying makes everything a little easier, and you can deal with silence longer.
In the end, my father said, “We Porats aren’t afraid or embarrassed by anyone or anything in the world.”
I wasn’t crying anymore. I looked at him.
“I always remind myself,” said my father, “that if I need to be embarrassed, I need only be embarrassed before G-d and my own heart.”
“In front of G-d,” he explained, “because He is the Creator of truth and justice, and knows when I haven’t been honest with myself or others, and in front of my heart because it was created in the image of G-d, and if I listen to it carefully, it knows what the right thing to do is and whether it’s even worth my while to listen to what other people are saying.”
A raindrop fell on my father’s head. He raised his face skyward and smiled. “Shall we go inside now?”
“Wait,” I said, looking at him in doubt, “you really aren’t afraid of anyone?”
“Of people?!” he said with horror. “Not in the least!”
I wasn’t convinced. “I don’t believe you,” I said.
“I mean,” he explained, “I do get scared. Everyone gets scared. But I overcome it right away. Like a lion!” My father punched the air with excitement.
He had a kind of gesture like that, meaning “Onward!” or “Full speed ahead!” or sometimes “Let’s dance!”
“When I start getting scared,” my father said, “I think right away about what King David said. You know it from the tefillah.”
My father, as if he were King David himself, began to cry out: ה’ אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי מִמִּי אִירָא, “Hashem is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” ה’ מָעוֹז חַיַּי מִמִּי אֶפְחָד, “Hashem is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?” בִּקְרֹב עָלַי מְרֵעִים לֶאֱכֹל אֶת בְּשָׂרִי צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי לִי הֵמָּה כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ, “When evildoers approach me to consume my flesh, when my oppressors and enemies come toward me, they stumble and fall!”, my father called loudly.
אִם תַּחֲנֶה עָלַי מַחֲנֶה, “If a camp encamps by me…” prompted my father.
לֹא יִירָא לִבִּי, “My heart will not fear,” I answered from memory.
אִם תָּקוּם עָלַי מִלְחָמָה, “If war comes upon me…” he sprang to his feet.
I also jumped up. בְּזֹאת אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ, “In this do I trust!”
“Exactly,” my father laughed. “When we have faith in G-d, we have faith in ourselves too, and we don’t pay attention to people who laugh at us.”
“Also,” he added after a moment’s thought, “we do fewer things we’re embarrassed of later on.”
Tzviya Porat Mandel is Rav Chanan Porat’s daughter. “That’s What My Father Said” is her first book and tells a story of family, love, growing up and longing.