‘Hava Nagila’ and the Resurrection
“I don’t talk politics, and I don’t talk religion!” Ninety-year-old Ruth stood 4 feet 10 inches tall in the doorway of her home, arms folded across her chest, eyeing us suspiciously as we introduced ourselves and began working in her yard, trimming bushes.
As Friends of Israel interns back then, we delighted in showing God’s love to this German-Jewish Holocaust survivor by working in her yard and helping with housework. This was my first meeting with Ruth, but it would not be my last.
Over the next four years, I developed a deep friendship with her, running errands, taking her to the doctor, attending classical concerts with her, and taking road trips together. We even shared a cabin on a weeklong cruise to Mexico.
One evening on the cruise ship, Ruth decided to go to the karaoke show on Deck 7. When we arrived, she pushed her walker to the front of the line to register her song request: “Hava Nagila,” a Jewish folk song that means “let us rejoice.”
The audience applauded as she maneuvered her walker to center stage. Explaining that the staff didn’t have the music, she declared she would sing a cappella. Silence blanketed the room as people exchanged smiles. Always the entertainer, Ruth set her walker to the side, stepped up to the microphone, and sang. She captivated the entire audience, which soon began clapping and singing with her. Everyone loved her! When she finished, we were all on our feet applauding. Her face was radiant as she smiled and took a bow.
Later that year, we planned her 94th birthday party unaware that, one month later, I would be standing by her hospital bed, holding her hand. This spunky lady now looked at me with weary eyes, and I knew we didn’t have much more time together.
In the past, Ruth always changed the subject when the subject was God, but her demeanor now was different. As I began to share my faith and tell her about God’s love for her through Messiah Jesus, she responded affirmatively; and we shared a sweet moment of prayer together. Two weeks later, she passed away, and I was left with memories of the past and a wonderful hope for the future.
Those of us who believe in Jesus have every reason to rejoice in His resurrection. His resurrection ensures our resurrection. The Jewish apostle Paul put it this way:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Th. 4:13–17).
My ultimate hope is based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Someday, I will see Ruth again; and maybe we’ll even sing “Hava Nagila” together.