Victor Frankl was among the millions of Jews who suffered under the merciless hand of the Nazis in war-torn Europe. Relating his personal experience in the death camps, Frankl describes the horrific torture he was victim to, and how he eventually reached that critical moment where he felt his spirit was so crushed that he had no choice but to give up.
It was then, Frankl relates, that he suddenly mustered the last traces of his inner strength and took hold of himself.
I shall not allow the Nazis to conquer my spirit, Frankl vowed.
Unearthing an intense willpower deep inside of him, Frankl made the realization that forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing: your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation. It was this staggering choice that enabled Frankl to free himself of the inconceivable pain he was enduring and ultimately survive the war.
What a powerful and relevant realization! A man who truly lived the Talmudic saying, “Ein davar ha’omed bifnei haratzon.” – “Nothing stands in the way of one’s willpower!”
Tough times? Yes! But we are made out of tough skin!
The Jewish nation is often referred to as “a stiff-necked people” – a title that hardly seems a compliment, but in fact, is our very strength. For if you follow the Jew through the rises and falls of history, you will see a willpower that is nothing less than remarkable. We are a stiff-necked people; indeed, we are a nation of survivors. We are the souls that persevere, that don’t let up, no matter how harrowing the circumstances.
We all have our own set of challenges, at times so crushing we can hardly hold our heads up. But one thing is certain: G-d has granted us the inner strength to rise above them, no matter how impossible it may seem.
The Talmud relates that no human being is destined to carry that which his soul cannot contend with. So as we grapple with our personal journeys in life, let us always remember that we have been blessed with the fortitude to triumph. We are strong! We can do it!
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Victor Frankl