Nights of Sorrow, Nights of Victory

July 19, 2023

Have you ever felt like you’re standing on the edge of despair, your pleas for help seeming to fade into an unresponsive void? If so, you are not alone. The opening lines of Psalm 77 echo the same sentiment, painting a raw picture of King David’s profound distress. Here, we are introduced to a protagonist whose life has been marred by hardship, and who yearns for a past filled with joyous memories.

“I cry aloud to God; I cry to God that He may give ear to me.” (Psalm 77:2)

As you continue reading the Psalm the anguish is palpable:

“Will the Lord reject forever and never again show favor?” Psalms 77:8

David feels abandoned, his faith shaken to its core. Yet, within this state of suffering and apparent divine indifference, an extraordinary journey unfolds – a journey from despair to enlightenment.

As the psalm progresses, David recalls God’s unwavering integrity. He realizes that it is not God who has failed him but rather his own misplaced expectations. He acknowledges that his concept of God and His actions were skewed. Upon this realization, David remembers God’s past interventions and His sovereign rule over the natural world, and his faith rekindles. He praises the God who performs miracles (verse 15), expressing his newly understood faith and gratitude.

Part of this newfound understanding comes from recalling the music of the past: “My thoughts turn to days of old, to years long past. I recall at night their jibes at me; I commune with myself; my spirit inquires (verses 6-7). [Though translated in The Israel Bible as “their jibes at me,” the Hebrew word n’ginati (נְגִינָתִי) literally means ‘my music.’ Thus, many understand the verse to mean “I recall my music in the night”]

The sages wonder what night David is referring to when he says that he recalls his music in the night. In response, they reference five significant nights in Jewish history: the Exodus, the night when God annihilated Senaccherib’s army, the night of Gideon’s night, Sisera’s downfall, and the night of the ninth of Av (the night the Holy Temple was destroyed). The first four are nights of victory, and their mention seems fitting. However, the fifth night stands apart. Why would David want to remember songs of the night of the ninth of Av, a night marred by tragedy and sadness?

Life, in its infinite complexity, is not just a series of victories. It is a blend of joyous celebrations and painful tribulations, nights of victory and nights of defeat. Just as there are days of salvation and redemption, there are also nights of sorrow and despair. By including the ninth of Av in the list of significant nights, the sages are suggesting that we should sing even in our times of sadness and tragedy, not in spite of the pain, but because of it.

While in the moment, times of distress can seem overwhelming, casting a long shadow over our lives. But it’s important to remember that within the depth of these challenges, there is an opportunity for growth, resilience, and a deeper understanding of life. In retrospect, we often find God’s hand present in these difficult times, guiding us through the storm, just as He is there during times of salvation and prosperity.

So why would David recall the night of the ninth of Av? Because it is part of the human experience. Remembering this night doesn’t mean dwelling in sorrow, but acknowledging the strength and faith that emerge from such trials. It’s about recognizing the beauty in the struggle, the lessons in the pain, and the grace that helps us to endure.

And so, Psalm 77 serves as a powerful reminder for us. When we find ourselves in the throes of despair, when the nights seem endless and dark, we should remember King David’s journey. We should remember the nights of victory, but also, the nights of sorrow. For each night holds a lesson and each night carries a unique melody that contributes to the symphony of our lives.

In our darkest hours, it is our responsibility to keep the song going and to find the strength to push through. For as Psalm 77 illustrates, it is these experiences that help us grow, redefine our relationship with the divine, and deepen our understanding of life’s complex tapestry. 

Eliyahu Berkowitz

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz is a senior reporter for Israel365News. He made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF as a combat medic. Berkowitz studied Jewish law and received rabbinical ordination in Israel. He has worked as a freelance writer and his books, The Hope Merchant and Dolphins on the Moon, are available on Amazon.

Eliyahu Berkowitz

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz is a senior reporter for Israel365News. He made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF as a combat medic. Berkowitz studied Jewish law and received rabbinical ordination in Israel. He has worked as a freelance writer and his books, The Hope Merchant and Dolphins on the Moon, are available on Amazon.

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