Adon Olam’s concluding four Hebrew words “Hashem Li velo Ira-God is on my side, I shall not fear,” are often drowned out by the clamor of the procession exiting the synagogue.The words echo Psalms 118, 6: “God is on my side, I shall not fear. What can a human being do to me?” We recite them at the Seder and during every morning service of Passover.
What does “I Shall not fear” mean?
Our ancestors experienced frightening moments. Jacob prayed in terror
before facing his brother Esau, who had previously threatened to kill him. Queen Esther broke Persian law, risking her life to speak with King
Ahaschuerus without being summoned. King David confronted foes, even from within his own family.
To me, the words mean “God is with The ESSENTIAL ME, I will not let my life be dominated by fear.” We can be so overwhelmed by our perceptions of powerful people that we go through our days NOT developing our own talents and interests, but rather avoiding situations which might displease the people to whom we ascribe so much power.
My Fears Limited me much more than my disability
At age 6, I spent four weeks away from home at a camp for the blind. After that, I began to picture myself as a frightened helpless victim.
My siblings didn’t have to leave home, but I was “sent away” because I was blind. If I didn’t show enough independence, the Big Bad Commission for the Blind would ship me off to a residential school for the blind, like the blind girl in a nearby town.
Later, I perceived myself as not having a history of job successes like
other kids. Without discussing my fears with anybody, I decided that I
couldn’t be a competent rabbi because I did not have independent access to primary Jewish texts (this has now changed.)
Liberation from Fear
As a Dennis Lehane character puts it, “I do not want to wake up some day as an old man and realize that I have been living someone else’s life.” Leaving victimhood behind, I can stop blaming others and take responsibility for my life. In a fortunate society whose government does not terrorize its citizens, no human being has absolute power over me.
Saying is Believing
After Passover has departed, we will still chant “Adon Olam” every Shabbat. Before rushing off to Kiddush, it’s worth pondering the concluding phrase “The Lord is on my side, I shall not fear.”