Dear Rabbi Fried,
Re your article in the TJP of Aug. 25, titled Miracles for Good, Bad Have Meaning for Us, what is the Meaning of the Bad? Your article promised a great deal but delivered very little. You are so wise that I hope you take other opportunities to write simply, honestly and directly so your message can be received.
I read your articles and appreciate your thoughts and reflections, so please answer this difficult question.
Thank you for your honesty and I hope I’m up to the task! We shall spend the next couple of columns in attempts to achieve some clarity on this very difficult subject.
In summary, in the aforementioned column we discussed one aspect of acts of God which are referred to as “negative miracles,” when God performs or allows evil to expose itself at a supernatural level. When evil is so powerful that it surpasses man’s natural capacity to do so, it becomes clear that it is a decree from Above for whatever reason the Al-mighty sees the necessity to allow the forces of evil to run amok.
We cited ancient miracles of this nature which took place during the destruction of the Temple. A modern-day example of this would be something which many inmates of Auschwitz were taken aback by. In a typically sinister attempt of ultimate mockery, the Nazis removed a plaque from the ark of a synagogue upon which was emblazoned the Hebrew verse “This is the gate of God in which the righteous enter,” and placed it at the entry to the gas chambers. What the Nazis intended as mockery, many of those entering that “gate” took that verse as a source of comfort. These Jews saw in it a sign from Above that in the bigger picture of Eternity, God hasn’t completely forsaken them and all those entering will have a place close to God and are, in some way, fulfilling a higher purpose in their martyrdom.
Rather than viewing this evil run amok as the disappearance of God, those individuals were actually strengthened in their belief and trust in God. They understood that such occurrences would not be possible if they were not somehow part of a bigger picture which, from our lowly vantage point, we cannot possibly perceive. That is, at least until we enter another time where we will have the benefit of a higher perch from which we will truly be able to understand the workings of God and His plans.
Let us attempt to take this to the next level. The Talmud relates that the prophets, upon witnessing the destruction of the Temple and subsequent exile of the Jews among the nations, ceased to recite the traits of God of “Gibor” and “Nora,” meaning “powerful” and “awesome.” They said, “With His people subjugated to the nations, where is His awesomeness? With idol-worshippers dancing in His Temple, where is His power?”
Since we must turn to pray to God with truth, and for the prophets, whose knowledge is revealed from Above, those traits of God went into hiding, they felt they could no longer recite those traits in praise of God.
Came the next generation of sages, the Men of the Great Assembly, and returned those traits back to the prayer service. They, in their profound wisdom, taught us that precisely because His nation is like a defenseless sheep among a pack of 70 hungry wolves, and continues to live and is not completely torn apart and consumed, that is the deepest expression of God’s awesomeness. And indeed the fact that He allows the wicked to dance in His Temple and holds back His anger, allowing free choice and the wickedness to take its own path, that’s the ultimate expression of His power.
Since we are out of space, I invite you to ponder over this lesson, and we shall continue to explain it further in the upcoming column next week, with God’s help.
Dear Rabbi Fried,