Sunday, March 27, 2011

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Hard Questions – Part 2

In part 1 a reader asked some of the hardest questions.  How can we understand recent tragedies as “good” (as everything G-d does is good)?  How do we explain it to those for whom emunah isn’t enough?  (The full original question here.)

Let’s be straight, while the world generally operates “ok”, we regularly see “bad things happening to good people” and “good things happening to bad people”.  We see things that seem, to our worldly eyes, unfair and unjust.  Things both on a personal level, a family level, and on a national level.

Such things are simply incomprehensible from a worldly perspective and expectation of justice and fairness.  ‘IT’S JUST NOT FAIR’ as our young children sometimes scream out.

How can we understand it?  How can we have emunah (faith) that everything G-d does is for the good while our fleshy eyes see otherwise and our bodies scream IT’S NOT FAIR?

The Baal Shem Tov provided an explanation (based on the teachings of the Ari HaKodesh) of multiple lives and justice carried out between lives.  Failings and necessary soul corrections of one life may be corrected or applied in subsequent lives.  It’s a theological answer that we may be able to accept intellectually but doesn’t satisfy the desire to believe in, to feel the good.

From the Mishnah and included as part of the Yom Kippur liturgy we have the story of the ten martyrs, the greatest rabbis of the generations who were ultimately tortured to death by the Romans and are told that the melachim, literally the angels, called out in bitter grief “is this the Torah and this it’s reward? O You who enwraps Yourself with light as a garment, the foe blasphemes Your great and awesome Name, scorns and desecrates the words of your Torah!”  A voice reverberated from Heaven “If I hear another word I will turn the world to water, I will revert heaven and earth to chaos and desolation.  It is My decree, submit to it you who rejoice in the Torah which preceded creation by two thousand years.”

How do we understand this as good?  Or a family slaughtered in their beds?  Or young people blown up at a bus stop?

How do we reconcile emunah and a belief that all G-d does is for the good with such events?

The answers are beyond human vision and comprehension.  We refer to G-d with a variety of names, and each name reveals a different aspect of our relationship with G-d.  “Our Father”, “Our King”, “Our Creator”, “Lord”, “Our Master”, “The Infinite”, “Master of the World”, etc.  Our Father does what is good for His children.  Our King makes rulings that must be followed and dispenses justice when they are not.  Our Creator is beyond our comprehension except to say that we know He is there.  The Infinite is even beyond that, for no human mind can even conceive of infinity.

Sometimes we merit to see the Hand of G-d in this world, both on a personal and national level.  But many times we do not.  We do not understand why things happened nor can we predict the results of the events.  We may not realize when we’re being directed by our Kind Father or when we’re being dealt with under an aspect of Divine Justice (though we should try to examine our deeds and consult with our wise rabbis to try to get some glimmer), or truly understand our interaction with these facets of the Master of the Universe (though Chassidus and Kabbalah strive to give us a glimpse).

We simply have emunah that it is right, true, and good in a way we cannot understand.  That is the definition of emunah.

And that includes knowing sometimes it is G-d’s Will.

May it be G-d’s will that we see it all as good in an earthly straight forward way, with the coming of Moshiach tzidkaynu, mamash today!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've used the story of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi and Elijah to show that it is very difficult to understand what is going on 'behind the scenes', but it is for the best in the end.

Sharbano

They journeyed on until they reached the house of a poor man, whose only earthly possession was a cow. The man and his wife were thoroughly good-hearted people, and they received the two wanderers with a cordial welcome. They invited the strangers into their house, set before them food and drink of the best they had, and made up a comfortable couch for them for the night. When Elijah and the Rabbi were ready to continue their journey on the following day, Elijah prayed that the cow belonging to his host might die. Before they left the house, the animal had expired. Rabbi Joshua was so shocked by the misfortune that had befallen the good people, he almost lost consciousness. He thought: "Is that to be the poor man's reward for all his kind services to us?" And he could not refrain from putting the question to Elijah. But Elijah reminded him of the condition imposed and accepted at the beginning of their journey, and they traveled on, the Rabbi's curiosity unappeased. That night they reached the house of a wealthy man, who did not pay his guest the courtesy of looking them in the face. Though they passed the night under his roof, he did not offer them food or drink. This rich man was desirous of having a wall repaired that had tumbled down. There was no need for him to take any steps to have it rebuilt, for, when Elijah left the house, he prayed that the wall might erect itself, and, lo! it stood upright. Rabbi Joshua was greatly amazed, but true to his promise he suppressed the question that rose to his lips. So the two traveled on again, until they reached an ornate synagogue, the seats in which were made of silver and gold. But the worshipers did not correspond in character to the magnificence of the building, for when it came to the point of satisfying the needs of the way-worn pilgrims, one of those present said: "There is not dearth of water and bread, and the strange travelers can stay in the synagogue, whither these refreshments can be brought to them." Early the next morning, when they were departing, Elijah wished those present in the synagogue in which they had lodged, that God might raise them all to be "heads." Rabbi Joshua again had to exercise great self-restraint, and not put into words the question that troubled him profoundly. In the next town, they were received with great affability, and served abundantly with all their tired bodies craved. On these kind hosts Elijah, on leaving, bestowed the wish that God might give them but a single head. Now the Rabbi could not hold himself in check any longer, and he demanded an explanation of Elijah's freakish actions. Elijah consented to clear up his conduct for Joshua before they separated from each other. He spoke as follows: "The poor man's cow was killed, because I knew that on the same day the death of his wife had been ordained in heaven, and I prayed to God to accept the loss of the poor man's property as a substitute for the poor man's wife. As for the rich man, there was a treasure hidden under the dilapidated wall, and, if he had rebuilt it, he would have found the gold; hence I set up the wall miraculously in order to deprive the curmudgeon of the valuable find. I wished that the inhospitable people assembled in the synagogue might have many heads, for a place of numerous leaders is bound to be ruined by reason of multiplicity of counsel and disputes. To the inhabitants of our last sojourning place, on the other hand, I wished a 'single head,' for the one to guide a town, success will attend all its undertakings. Know, then, that if thou seest an evil-doer prosper, it is not always unto his advantage, and if a righteous man suffers need and distress, think not God is unjust." After these words Elijah and Rabbi Joshua separated from each other, and each went his own way.

Anonymous said...

the answer is simple and maybe the wicked are wise for recognizing it in general there is NO reward for mitzvah in this world so wicked jews and gentiles rule it . If the rightous wre TGRULY rightous theyd pray regularly for the messiah to come and end this predicament . Thats why the talmud says the dor will be wholy wicked meaning the majority of jews will be wicked and catastrophies like the shoah and natural disasters will occur to WAKE people up to pray for the messiah !

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