Ben touched on some of this in two posts… His first on Tisha B’Av… and his follow-up on “Where’s G-d?”
Bad things DO happen to good people.
And while I do believe that there are things much bigger than ourselves, things we cannot understand, I also know that it’s hard to comprehend at times, to wrap our brains around… and certainly to be okay with. Although I do also think it is okay NOT to be okay with certain tragedies and horrors. We should challenge and question and discuss, as it will hopefully make our faith that much more informed and stronger.
One of the many things that Rabbi Denbo has taught me, is the way to prepare for prayer. He says there are seven steps one needs to be in the right mental state and ready to pray:
1) Hashem loves me
2) Hashem is totally aware of me
3) Hashem has the power to give me anything and everything I want
4) I do not have the power
5) Hashem has given me so much already
6) I don’t have to deserve it
7) Hashem knows what is best
I’m sure we have all questioned at least one of these at some point. Surprisingly, I am solid with almost all of them, and yet the last one deeply challenges me and does have my brain moving a little bit away from certainty.
Hashem loves me. This is also an issue of self-esteem. Knowing we each have value to ourselves and others. Hashem loves us, and therefore we MUST also love ourselves. I’m good there.
Hashem is totally aware of me. His love is not dismissive. It is active and alive. This gives me great comfort, and also great responsibility to do the right thing, since Hashem is always watching and around me… and I WANT to have a good relationship with him (just using the masculine term and not meaning anything by it… as we know Hashem has no real form, etc.)
Hashem has the power to give me anything I want. If Hashem is everything and everywhere this makes total sense.
I do not have the power. Well… hmmm… this could open up a whole can of worms and a discussion on Free Will and many other things… and it does NOT mean that we do not make efforts and work hard and try. We MUST do that… ALWAYS… but it does knock our egos down a bit, and maybe that is a good thing. ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING, and know that there is also and ALWAYS a higher power… something bigger than all of us and anything we could do. This is also incredibly freeing, and brings in the notion of AWE and FEAR, important aspects of Judaism.
Hashem has given me so much already. Yeah, gratitude is a pretty big thing and something are need to work on every, single day. We MUST express gratitude to the people in our lives… for the things we have and of course, to Hashem who makes it all possible.
I don’t have to deserve it. This is a tricky one, too. For ourselves, it is immensely empowering… But we do also have that “Ah ha moment” when we could say so THAT is why so and so is so rich… or has so much… or seems happier… He doesn’t deserve it, but look! And this, of course, leads us into the last idea…
Hashem knows what is best. If we can give ourselves over to this notion, it is freeing and amazing and makes things so much clearer. Who are we to question? Who are we to think we know more than Hashem?
Just look at us. Take a photo of yourself in your mind… and then pull back… your house… your city… your state… your country… your continent… your planet… We are pretty small in the scheme of things… but a vital and integral part of everything.
A friend, who is not Jewish, has been getting comfort in the notion that all of the death in her family (and it is A LOT and all of a sudden) is because G-d causes tragedy, and therefore this means that because he is touching their family so much, holiness and G-d are that much closer to them.
The holiness I get… and I really understand where she is coming from… but does G-d CAUSE tragedy? It seems like this thought, this notion would create less peace and calm and perhaps even raise some ire and anger towards G-d.
This is an eternal question. Does Hashem cause tragedy or let it happen? We can debate this for hours and days… years and lifetimes… But if we truly believe that Hashem knows what is best, any discussion is moot. That does not mean we do not feel sadness… or express sadness and condolences… and as Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld says, we do not ever mention this to a grieving family or at a Shiva, for at that moment it probably will not comfort.
What I am realizing is that tragedy and death and bad things will happen… have to happen… and if we not only allow ourselves to ACCEPT that Hashem knows what is best, but to allow our love for Hashem and Hashem’s love for us to give us strength and the tools we need to get through it and be strong and come out stronger, than that is what this is really all about.
A friend who became very observant and “religious” had a major tragedy befall his family… the sickness and for a while, life-threatening illness of a child. People asked, how could G-d do this to you? How could G-d do this to someone who has just embraced his Judaism… just embraced G-d?
His answer was profound… because this was GOING to happen no matter what… and my faith and beliefs and Judaism is what got me through. Without that, I would have been lost.
Shlomo goes on to say that Hashem gives us the tools we need BEFORE we need them. Hashem makes sure we have what we need, because he KNOWS BEST…
HASHEM KNOWS BEST.