Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Al Tiro

Fear Not


These two words have a great deal of meaning!  I heard them the first time in Nazi Germany as a young child when I attended my cousin's wedding, shortly before he escaped to Sweden with his young bride by night and fog.  As we gulped down the fish soup and the sparse menu of the betrothal feast between good wishes and prayers, one of the wedding guests let the words ring out : “Fürchte dich nicht,” while looking into the eyes of the young couple standing before him.

Adonoh li velo ira is the last sentence of Adon Olom, the prayer that is sung in the synagogue.  G’d is with you and you shall not fear.  This comes to mind when reliving the Nazi era, and many aspects of existing and experiencing the emotion of those days and the good wishes that were  bestowed upon the brave young couple that were faced with multitudes of potentially dangerous situations, as well those that faced the guests that were about to make plans to escape or to remain and face the unknown destruction that awaited them.  One of the teenage male guests skied over the Alps to Switzerland and, with a fearless determination, ultimately landed  in Israel.

Fear has its place, although an uncomfortable one.  It takes courage to overcome the painful waves of fear that precedes the strength that it takes to carry out what is needed to accomplish a potentially dangerous feat.

As Jews, we have had to overcome our paralyzing fears to be safe.  It is so beautifully described in the play “Fiddler On The  Roof,” when Tevye and his family left the pogroms of Eastern Europe with their meager possessions and came to America, to a land where they were strangers, did not speak the language and had to seek parnosse  (a living) without any preparations.  They were spared annihilation.  The one daughter that remained married a gentile and lost her family and her identity.  The fear of the unknown can be a crippling emotion, but remaining with the anti-semitic Bolsheviks and their pogroms was an almost certain way to die.  Fear can often stymie rational thought and cause much destruction.

Fear has its place under certain circumstances.  In the animal kingdom it can be a protective device from injuries or death.  It can be a warning, a foreboding emotion, to spare the involved creature from harm.

Courage is essential for being a successful human being.  That emotion gains the person self confidence, the will to achieve, to face situations, to attempt to live successfully, to have few regrets, and to chance options that may not always guarantee a positive outcome.  We can give many examples of folk who have taken risks after rationally contemplating what they are about to face or to do.  Investing is one good example. Getting an education when faced with difficult alternatives is another.  Striving for something that  takes a great deal of effort where there is no absolute is another.  Facing job interviews; being able to network; not being afraid of people; facing the proverbial music, etc. Presidential candidates have had to work extremely hard, knowing that they may not win.  They have had to conquer their fears and doubts before they ventured on their journey.  They have had to face defeats and stress.  Their courage won and they not only threw their “hat into the ring,” but their entire way of life.

Highly successful people have conquered their fears, have faced their world, and have taken the concept of Al Tiro very seriously.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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