Not understanding G-d’s plan makes us more human
It’s not easy being G-d’s defence attorney these days. That’s why I quit. I – and I believe I can speak on behalf of my colleagues – am not going to be answering on behalf of G-d any longer.
The truth is that we never accepted that role in the first place. No-one should be talking on behalf of G-d or explaining why things happen. We can explore lessons, but never offer explanations.
From the dawn of our nation, we find our founders and leaders unwilling to accept the seeming unfairness of life. Abraham cried out against G-d’s decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Moshe Rabeinu (Moses) cried out to G-d, “Why have you been so harsh to this nation?” In hard times, when G-d’s face was hidden and they were confronted by the darker side of reality, they chose the prosecution rather than opting for the role of the defence.
There’s a misconception that believing in G-d means that we don’t question, we don’t cry, we don’t feel. In this theory, the believer develops a heart of stone in the face of tragedy because they feel that “because everything comes from G-d, there’s no room for any discomfort with the sorrow and hardship of this world”.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. The greatest Jewish leaders felt the pain of their nation in a deep way, and didn’t explain it away with platitudes. For their own suffering and pain, they would often rely heavily on faith and try to rise above it, but for the pain of others, they were inconsolable.
While their faith was strong and they deeply believed that G-d knows what’s best, they also understood that the human experience of suffering is real and heart breaking. They understood that compassion and empathy aren’t a contradiction of faith, but rather part and parcel of the journey of the believer. There has been research to show that believing people are often more charitable and involved in more community projects than their non-believing brothers. Faith leads to charity not to apathy.
The believer understands, whether consciously or intuitively, that the divine design is that when we see lack and imperfection in this world and within the lives of our neighbour, we try to fill it and fix it rather than merely passing by the beggar, apathetically thinking: why should I alleviate their poverty if G-d orchestrated it all? Their suffering is G-d’s will!
No way! Faith isn’t an excuse to ignore evil and pain. On the contrary, it’s the call to partner with G-d and make His world a little closer to its intended home for the divine. We’re called upon to use our free choice and make the world a little more wholesome and healed.
Let’s not forget that the same Torah that teaches us to believe in the creator – “Shema Yisrael” – is the very same Torah that teaches us how to treat the widow, orphan, stranger, the ill, and the mourners.
Until the messianic age, we live in an imperfect world – that’s the understatement of the century! Heaven is perfect. Heaven is peace. Heaven is clarity. Life on earth, however, is messy, with the human characteristic of – and consequences of – free choice. Some people choose to become angels, while others choose the road of Satan. We’re called upon never to waver in our convictions so that we can make as many good choices as possible. Bad choices are the outcomes of unhealthy convictions and unmastered impulses.
Why would G-d allow humanity to be able to fall so low into the abyss of depravity? That’s a question that has plagued humanity since the dawn of creation when Cain killed Abel, and the entire generation of Noah got so corrupted that G-d chose to restart the human experiment with Noah and his family.
Let’s repeat that it’s not our job to explain or defend G-d, but it is our job to better this world and be a light to the nations – a light of clear moral thinking, a light of loving-kindness, a light of strong moral convictions.
Why did G-d allow 7 October to happen? I don’t know, and I’m not sure that I want to know. If I knew, I would become less angry about what happened and less determined to heal this world. Were I to understand darkness, I would inevitably become apathetic to the pain and suffering of my fellow human.
The correct question, and the consequential question is: what will I do within my power to heal this world and add light to a world gone dark? Will my faith drive me forward to bring light and clarity to a world that’s suffering from moral darkness and confusion? Will I cower in fear in the face of ignoble hatred and self-righteous antisemitism? Will I waver in my beliefs when I see many educated people and nations lose their G-d-given moral compass?
Or will I take more pride than ever in my faith, nation, and homeland? Will I stop being defensive in the face of poorly masked Jew-hatred and wear my kippah and chai necklace prouder than ever? Will my mezuzah stand proudly on my doorpost? Will I wear tefillin proudly on the plane or while on holiday? Will I light my Chanukah candles with more pride than ever before, determined to fight darkness with light? Will I believe in G-d’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the land of Israel will be given to the Jewish people as an everlasting inheritance, and that that is our strongest claim to the land? No other country is more morally justified in its existence than the land of Israel – given by G-d to am Yisrael!
So, yes, we cry out to the G-d we believe in, “Please stop the sorrow! Bring Moshiach now!” We cry because we believe. If we didn’t believe, then the questions are mute in the first place. At the same time, we stand determined to bring an end to sorrow by realising that we were given the opportunity to add our piece to the puzzle of world betterment. Light will always outlive darkness. Love will always overcome hate. And the Jewish people will outlive all our enemies. Ask Pharaoh, Haman, and Hitler. Stand tall.
You are the answer to the most important question: what now?
- Rabbi Levi Avtzon is the rabbi at Linksfield Shul.