Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Challenge of Acceptance

My friend Jameel posted a story the other day that generated WAY more controversy than I expected. In retrospect, the 15th comment (from Abbi) made a lot of sense.
Jameel posted almost word for word an email that we both got that told a story that happened the night of the massacre at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva. The gist of the story is that because of a circumstantial phone call, there were 10 fewer people in the library when the terrorist opened fire.

Now for me, this is a tremendous reaffirmation that there is a G-d, that He runs the world, and He is intimately involved in everything that happens. But for some of Jameel's readers it was an insulting concept. One guy even spelled it out:
Why attribute the saving of the 10 to God but not the murder of the 8?
A God who interferes to save 10 but decides not to save the 8 also isn't a God I believe in. God - whatever s/he or it is - lets us get on with running, or ruining, this world as we see fit. So I don't expect too much of Him.

From my point of view, of COURSE G-d took those ten "princes" (in the words of Rav Yoel Bin Nun). Our challenge is not to understand why G-d took them, but to accept that there must be a reason. And even more, to be aware of how much good took place even in the midst of horrific, heartrending tragedy. The very basis of faith (emuna) is that G-d is good, and does good, always. It's our limited perception of events that causes us to label things "bad".

But the last comment says:
It's an issue of timing. People still freshly grieving loved ones are probably not in the mood to hear how God chose to save 10 other men, when He chose to have their son/grandson/nephew/neighbor mowed down in cold blood. In fact, it's just plain insensitive, as many of these people are probably quite angry with God, no matter how frum they are. And they have every right to be. It's beyond agonizing to lose a loved one in such a horrible way.

This is certainly true, and as responsible Jews we have to remember and be sensitive to our audience. Now a blogger never knows who is reading his or her blog, but there are some things are just Not Done, and others that perhaps as believing, G-d-fearing Jews we should try to avoid.
Nevertheless, I take issue with the commenter's closing remark:
(I am also not a fan of these stories especially for this reason and because it just simplifies Gd's behavior and decision making way too much)

The story that I received and Jameel posted gave me a lot of chizuk (support) and nechama (comfort). Because I believe in a G-d who is good and does good, it is comforting to me to know that there WAS a reason for this massacre. The deaths of these boys have meaning and holiness. They serve a purpose that I hope and pray will be revealed to us speedily in our days.

Thanks Jameel. I, for one, am glad you put up the post.


Rachel said...

Yasher koach, Jameel and yasher koach, Devra!

It isn't ever easy to know why things like this happen, but we do know that Hashem has reasons.

Similarly, I have a friend who (Devra, you may remember, it was the day I left Israel) was killed in a car accident...her parents decided to donate her organs. It was so difficult to lose someone we loved so much. But her parents get an annual letter from the person who benefitted from her. Easy? No. But a blessing nonetheless, for another family? YES! We don't understand it. But it happens.

Gila said...

I agree with the commenter you quoted--those stories are really problematic.

After 9/11, there were plenty of similar stories going around about how this one or that one was going to be at work but for some minor annoyance that proved to be lifesaving--as in G-d sent this to save him or her.

And the other thousands of victims, well, screw them....

Yes, the little ordinary things can save you...but they can also mean that you are in the right place at the right time to be involved in a 10 car pileup on the freeway.

I hate hate hate those types of stories.... Sometimes, silence really is golden.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Rachel - I remember, and thanks for sharing the continuation.

Gila - I totally respect where you are coming from. But I wrote this post exactly because I don't see things the way you (and that other guy) see things. Yes, one "coincidence" saves a person, while another "coincidence" puts another person directly in harm's way. I don't believe the universe is random. If I did, I'd behave a lot differently. I believe that everything has a purpose, and a good purpose, even if we don't see it. Today is the yarzheit of the son of neighbors who was killed in a "friendly fire" accident. Zahal shot him to pieces. It was awful. It's still awful. It's still, 5 years later, SO hard for the family. But they, and we, believe that G-d has His purpose and though we don't always fathom it, and it can hurt so much, we trust that ultimately things will be for the good. This is what gives us strength to put one foot in front of the other.

I stress that this is my perspective, and I totally respect that you are coming from an entirely different place.

Andrea said...


I believe people can find meaning in tragedy and I believe that a loving Gd functions as that that coping mechanism that allows them to find that meaning and begin to heal.

But I don't (can't?) believe that this was allowed to happen for a reason. Can good/meaning come out of it, yes - because what is our alternative?

I believe we each have the ability to behave with good intentions and that our behavior impacts others. It's what gives us the positive and negative reinforcement for our actions. That, and Gd is looking over our shoulder.

I don't know why bad things happen - I don't believe that it's because Gd intentionally wants them to....

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Andrea - from my perspective (and believe me I understand that not everyone is seeing things the way I do), something that we see as "bad" is just something that we cannot fathom why it is good. We are not G-d. We don't understand G-d's perspective. Sometimes, SOMETIMES, we are granted the gift of looking back and seeing why something we thought was so bad was really good. I once was fired from a job. I thought it was awful, until I looked back and saw what it allowed me to move on to. More that that. I got divorced. I was devastated. I couldn't image getting a life together for me and my little children. Only two years later I married my husband, who was only interested in dating me because I had these two beautiful children! So much good came out of my first marriage, but it had to end. By its ending I was able to move on and marry again to an amazing person. We don't always get that kind of clarity, but I believe there are reasons for everything, and even the biggest challenges -- chronic or fatal illness, death of loved ones, poverty, mental illness -- happen for a reason, and come from G-d. I cannot accept that G-d is mean or worse, indifferent. So I have to believe that there is a good reason behind everything. I just don't merit to understand it.

I'm not asking you to buy into my philosophy, I'm just putting it out there to think about. As long as you are thinking, that's what matters.

aoc gold said...

What does the bee do?

Bring home honey.

And what does Father do?

Bring home money.

And what does Mother do?

Lay out the money.

And what does baby do?

Eat up the honey.

--------- by Age Of Conan gold