Friday, August 22, 2008

Is Life Fair?

In memory of Bobbi Frankel, who exemplified the search for honest meaning and profound human connections.

I owe you an apology.

Last week, I made a mistake. Here, I found a fascinating article from the Guardian newspaper, read the first half and the last bit, but in my haste (and family vacation) did not read the entire piece word-for-word.... Should I have considered that the Guardian, that venerable bastion of British middle-class culture, would publish profanity? In my naïveté, I did not. The Guardian’s mission since its founding in 1821 has been promoted at various times as “non-conformist”, and it has been a great supporter of Israel, but in my innocence did not suspect that nonconformist meant the use of profanity. Please accept my apology (the online version was cleaned up after the problem was reported to me, but the email, like lashon hara, was like the cat out of the bag...)

That said, one reader complained last week that the article was too long to read - “who has time?” he asked.

The answer is – the idea of this weekly email is not to read it on the computer screen, but to print it out and read at leisure Friday night or even Saturday afternoon, when you (supposedly) have the time. Please, do yourself a favor, click PRINT right now and take that long walk over to the printer to fetch it before you forget.

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The other day I was sitting at a picturesque little paradise on the Puget Sound with someone in the spot where my father hit his head three years ago and never woke up. (If you want to get a tiny sense of what kind of person he was and why he was mourned by so many, read this)

My interlocutor asked, “How can you understand how a just God could allow this to happen? Or the hurricanes or earthquakes where thousands of innocent people die?”

It seems to me that there are 3 things that anyone asking this question might think about:

1 – The issue of a “just God” does not need to be framed in terms of hurricanes and earthquakes. Even if a single child suffers, the question could be asked.
2 – This question is not a new one. In fact, not only is it discussed by all major Jewish thinkers, it is the subject of an entire book of Tanach, the book of Job.
3 – Why is it that we are troubled by our failure to understand God? Is the God of our conception so puny an idea that we can understand it? Shouldn’t we expect that whatever God is, if God is, God is beyond our understanding?

In fact, Maimonides says that the more you meditate on #3, ironically, the more you understand “God”.

Shabbat Shalom

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