Sunday, November 14, 2010

Has G-d forsaken the world?

Father Where Are You? 
The Lubavitcher Rebbe
15 Shevat 5739 - February 12, 1979

There is a wellknown parable related in the name of the Maggid of Mezeritch explaining the reason for the exile:

G-d is like a father who hides from his son.  He doesn't do so because he wants to be separated from him - rather, he wants to evoke his son's desire to search for his father and to find him.

When a child constantly sees his father, he is not conscious of this longing for "there is no pleasure in a constant pleasure". 

When the father hides, the son's yearning is aroused: "Why can't I see my father?"  But after prolonged searching, the person may eventually ask: "Is G-d present among us or not?"

He acknowledges that G-d exists, but he will question whether G-d is really with us.  He understands that G-d exists, that He rules the universe and so forth....  He even knows that G-d creates him anew each instant, ex nihilo.  But he feels that G-d's involvement in his own life is only peripheral, and not - as The Tanya describes - that G-d is completely involved in every minute detail of his existence.

He begins to doubt whether G-d is really involved in the details of his life. And that leads to further doubt: "We don't see a sign of G-d and who knows if we ever will... perhaps G-d has forsaken the world?" Chas v'shalom.  He despairs and gives up the search altogether.

And this is what the parable tells us:

When the father sees that his son no longer seeks him, that is the deepest exile.

So long as the son seeks the father, that is a step forward - a spark - the beginning of the solution. Because finding his Father is the son's true desire, his main endeavor.  But once he stops searching - whether out of ignorance or out of despair -  then "I shall hide, indeed I shall hide My Countenance". 

The Baal Shem Tov explains why "I shall hide" is said twice:  The very fact that G-d is hidden itself becomes hidden from him - he forgets that G-d is even there.  Practically speaking, he pursues his worldly needs in a legitimate way according to Jewish law... he studies Torah as required of him by Jewish law... but he studies without thinking about the Giver of the Torah.   When he does business he forgets that "it is G-d Who grants you the strength to succeed".  He no longer gives these thoughts any credence, and when he is confronted about this he can respond "Why are you complaining to me?  The complaint is to G-d!"

How long must we wait? Granted, the Father hides from his son so that the son will seek him and thirst for him "in a parched and weary land without water".  But to place the son in a doubled and re-doubled darkness .... when, as the Talmud states: "If our forebears were like angels then we are mere mortals; and if they were mortals then we are like donkeys." 

And despite this the Jew is expected to keep on searching.  Sunday, he searches.  Monday, he searches. One attempts to find answers to the situation in the works of Jewish ethics, in the Chassidic works... until we find a clear ruling in the Talmud:  "All 'end times' for the redemption have passed, all it depends on now is repentance (teshuvah)".  And the Talmud rules that even one sincere thought of repentance transforms a person into a complete Tzaddik. 

There is no such thing as a Jew who has not had a true stirring of repentance.  There is no such thing.  Especially in our generation that has witnessed such tremendous suffering - "we saw with our very own eyes and we heard with our very own ears".  May it never happen again.  But we did witness it, we did hear it, and we do remember it.

It is not possible that among the entire Jewish people there is even a single Jew who has not been moved to thoughts of repentance; and not only once but numerous times.  What more can one expect of a man of flesh and blood who is finite and limited?  And it is G-d Himself who makes man finite and limited so the person can't be blamed for that either.  Man is limited as to how much he can cope with, and after all this he is challenged: "Why don't you think about the Redemption?"

He responds: "Every day I affirm the Principle of Faith that I yearn for Moshiach's coming every day". Now he's expected to keep this in mind all day long?  It is not possible.

We know that G-d "does not demand from a person more than he can handle" - but it seems He hasn't given enough strength....

But there is something one can do: When a person increases the Divine light in his life, and specifically that Divine light which brings him real, tangible joy, then "Joy bursts through barriers" and that joy tears down the barriers within himself, the barriers in the world around him, and the thick barriers of the darkness of exile.

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