Friday, May 7, 2021

Struggling with Faith

Keeping the faith these days is not an easy thing. It was heart-wrenching to observe the funeral of the 45 victims of the Miron tragedy. I found myself watching a couple of the funerals on the live stream this past Sunday. There was a eulogy given by a father who flew in from the United States to Israel in order to bury his 19-year-old son. The searing pain that one could feel from the father's voice was palpable and vivid. This scene played itself out in funeral after funeral as young parents bid goodbye to their young children who they never see again on this earth. There are many angles of pain and hurt to this story, and it's a challenge to our faith when we witness the holy and the pure taken from us while visiting a sacred site. How do we begin to make sense of this? This is particularly troublesome for a community of faith that struggles to reconcile a just and benevolent G-d with the cruel and painful reality that we are confronted with now.  If we are having our doubts about the hand of G-d in our lives, then we are in good company. The Haftorah of this Parsha Behar (that is not read this week since we read the Haftorah of the second Parsha of Bechukosai) retells a fascinating story about the prophet Jeremiah. At the onset of the Babylonian invasion of ancient Israel that culminated with the catastrophic destruction of the First Temple, Jeremiah receives a prophecy that seemed extremely bizarre. He was told by G-d to purchase a piece of land from a relative and then put the documents that recorded the sale in earthenware vessels so that they may be preserved for many days. He then proceeds to execute this transaction faithfully and not only purchases the property but conceals the documents in a carefully hidden manner. Jeremiah is very troubled by the directive to buy the land in such a painful and tragic time. Here the spiritual leader of the Jewish people who wanted to comfort his flock in their time of peril was busy with a real estate transaction! He began to question G-d about the timing of the need to purchase the land. The prophet appears at his wit's end with this directive, which coincided with the impending invasion of Israel. He even neglects to address G-d as הנורא or the Awesome One. The Talmud provided the necessary commentary on this as Jeremiah felt that G-d's awesomeness was absent. The Haftorah concludes ominously as G-d says that nothing is hidden from Him. The Rabbis have taught that G-d meant to say that Jeremiah was only looking at the present moment, and indeed, the timing to purchase the real estate seemed odd. On the other hand, the infinite and eternal G-d was planning the return of the Jewish People to Zion and Jerusalem with the purchase of the property.  The notion of being in a state of Hester Panim or G-d's concealed face is troubling because we can't see the chessboard of life displayed in a manner that makes sense. While we do not have any answers to the tragedy on Miron, it would be worthwhile to recall the lesson Jeremiah purchasing the plot of land as we look for ways to strengthen our faith.

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