What's Going On?
Sometimes I feel like G-d. No, don’t book me a room in a sanatorium just quite yet. I didn’t say I have a Napoleonic complex or think I’m Joan of Arc, just G-d. The last thing I did last night was command Amazon that I want a certain book today and with guaranteed delivery. This morning I commanded Alexa to play me songs by John Denver, and she took me home on a country road, although I did have to raise my voice because she didn’t obey at first. I also checked the security app on my Smartphone where I could check in on all the surveillance cameras watching my home. Later I’ll be using Google map and it will take me exactly where I want to go. I’m just giddy with power. Who needs G-d, are we not G-ds?
Then I see my once vibrant active mother in her wheelchair, and I’m reminded how all our feigned posturing and pretending, our grandstanding and grand entrances, our pride and prejudices, in a single second the One and only G-d can bring us down to our knees. “Oh dear G-d, why? Why?” But Alexa cannot answer. And Waze cannot give me direction now. It’s been six years since her stroke and no automatic reply will do.
No, we are not G-ds. So funny how we try so hard to be in control of our lives and circumstances and get stressed, sick and mad when the ploys of the helm don’t respond to our directives. In just a moment’s time He above reminds us that there is a hidden hand that’s in charge of the traffic flow, and the course our life will take. And the question is, “How do we handle the darkness?” Do we have a right to be angry, accusatory and resentful of either G-d or the person to our left when we find ourselves in awful, nightmarish circumstances? I know that the new version of my mother has made a new version of me, forged through fire. And though Alexa has no answers the Book of Proverbs does: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely upon your understanding.” (3:5) As Rabbi Shalom Arush writes, “At the point where the brain no longer understands how Hashem is doing everything for the very best, emuna [faith] begins. In other words, emuna kicks in when the brain kicks out.”
The Talmud teaches that there is no suffering without sin, either in this lifetime or a previous incarnation. All that happens is calculated by G-d’s invisible hand. Yes, as we amuse ourselves with apps and comic omnipotence, G-d is the one in control and we rarely know His purpose. Corrie ten Boom writes in her Holocaust memoir, “Every experience G-d gives us...is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see.…” Einstein says, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Either we believe or we don’t. It’s either all meant to be or none of it is. We can carry on kicking and screaming or with grace and faith. If we can blindly trust a bus driver that he will take us to where we are supposed to go, how can we not trust G-d Almighty that He will take us just where we need to be? (Rabbi Arush)
We can try and figure out why G-d does what He does. And whether we think we know or just don't get it, either way we are equally clueless, but the latter more humbly so. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
I know all too well that I don’t have an exclusive on life’s hardships. And, in an inexplainable crescendo, I hear more stories of tragedy and suffering of late than ever before. Something is brewing. As a G-d fearing person I know when we suffer it is time to search our own souls, not everyone else’s. The 11th principle of the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith affirms that G-d rewards those who follow His Torah and punishes those who do not. That applies to us as individuals and as a nation. Whether it’s personal tragedies or terror attacks we must self diagnose and turn to G-d. He always wants what is best for us and so we must accept the bad with the same faith and graciousness with which we accept the good.
I look at my mother in her wheelchair and I’m reminded of the endless hours, days and nights and months I sat in the ICU with my mother until she emerged from her coma. This was far from the halls of power where I interviewed the world’s most famous people. Month after month listening to the nerve wracking bleeps of machines, watching people die, seeing families destroyed, processing the tears, choking them back and with a simple, “How are you?” they break like an irreparable dam. Oh, and the haunting howling of grief that ricochets into the night long after they have been released from the bellows of the heart. They resonate still. I realized there, more than any place else in the world, that we have to believe that G-d has His plan and we were never hired to be the architect.
We have to learn from Joseph the Tzaddik that no matter how thick the darkness, it is part of G-d’s purpose. Like King David we must remain certain, “Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (23:4). Friends, I know it is so very hard to have faith when we are crying and when we are flailing and failing and mad at the world, but I also know that it is even harder to live without it. Remember it is ALL from G-d or none of it is. Siri and Alexa and their like are great modern inventions which reveal to us that our words can activate the world around us. Now we have only to take our words and redirect them to the One who has all the answers and pray to Him to activate miracles.
In Memory of Cila bat Beirish. May her neshama have an aliya!