Dear Rabbi Fried,
In your recent column about comforting the mourners for a loss and the Jewish people mourning over the destruction of the Temple, you explained the meaning really is to have a paradigm shift and a different perspective on what took place. Could you please elaborate more on that different perspective?
Being that we are presently in the period of the Jewish calendar dubbed “the seven weeks of comforting” following the sad, destructive day of Tisha B’Av, it is indeed appropriate to focus on the meaning of comforting during this time.
I think we can look at this on two levels, where one is a deeper awareness of the other.
Level one is recognizing the Hand of God not only when things are good, but when things seem to be very bad. So bad, in fact, that the very evil perpetrated becomes so insanely evil that it is obviously supernatural in nature.
This is known as the concept of “miracles for the bad.” At times God performs miracles for the good, such as splitting the sea, bringing down the manna, etc. The Jewish people and the world recognize God in these miracles, as these events are quite obviously supernatural occurrences. There occurred equally supernatural events during the course of the destruction.
For example, blood spurted from the canopy of the “Holy of Holies” in the Temple when pierced by the sword of Titus, leading him to believe he had killed the Jewish God. Without going into the reason for this miracle and similar ones, they show us the Hand of God and His involvement no less than when He reveals Himself in ways which are clearly beneficial to us.
When we consider the unprecedented sadistic murder of an entire nation by one of the most sophisticated peoples of the world, utilizing precisely that very sophistication to scientifically decimate millions of people, we are witnessing a “miracle for the bad.”
When we try to explain the sum total of anti-Semitism throughout our history by way of sociopolitical theories, we succeed in explaining perhaps 5 percent of what has actually transpired (in the words of my mentor from Jerusalem).
Even when we don’t grasp the reasons for this type of miracle, we can, nevertheless, be cognizant of God’s presence and involvement due to the bizarre nature of the anti-Semitism manifested in the occurrence and take comfort in that fact alone. (To delve into the Talmudic explanations of some of these historical occurrences is a worthy endeavor, worthy of a separate column.)
We are a nation which believes “there is a judgment and there is a Judge,” and that all things happen for a reason. This applies to the Jewish people in general and to each individual specifically. In this way the individual mourner for a personal tragedy joins the collective mourners over the destruction of Israel and the Temple. Similarly they attain comfort with the trust that what transpired wasn’t for naught.
The second perspective, which completes the understanding of this first point, will be the subject of the upcoming column next week, with God’s help.
Dear Rabbi Fried,