It’s been a while. How are You?
Though You didn’t ask, let me share with You how we are. Bluntly put: We’re not doing so well down here.
Last Friday night – as You surely know – a beautiful family was butchered in cold blood. A father, mother and their three children. Just to confirm that You get their names and ages right, to assure them their box seats in heaven, here is the exact spelling of their names: Udi Fogel, 36. Ruth Fogel, 35. Yoav Fogel, 11. Elad Fogel, 4. Hadas Fogel, 3 months.
Yes, You read that right, 3 months old… Throats slashed – all of them. What did they do wrong? They were sleeping in their home in the Promised Land, on a Friday night, after praying Shabbat services and eating the Shabbat meal, reciting blessings and singing Your praises.
Yes, indeed: This happened on Shabbat. On Your Shabbat. And in Your Holy Land. The land that Your eyes “watch from the beginning of the year till the end of the year.”
In Japan, one of Your “natural disasters” – in the guise of an earthquake and tsunami – devastated an entire region, leaving over 25,000 dead, and millions displaced. (Our insurance policies call these “natural disasters” “acts of G-d”– so don’t think You’re off the hook and have been forgotten; all joking aside, when it comes to saving money our insurance companies blame stuff on You, though they don’t necessarily give You the credit when things work out alright).
These two brazen tragedies were publicized, leaving us all reeling, shaken to the core. But surely there were many more tragedies – which You, if anyone, know about more of than all of us – that did not make headlines. How many people are suffering as we speak? Only You know.
Bottom line, things are not very pretty on Earth.
Before anyone tries waxing philosophical, let me acknowledge that I am quite aware that the holiday of Purim is quickly approaching. And we know that Purim is all about Your concealed presence and Your hidden plans. Your name is therefore never mentioned in the entire Megillah, indicating Your behind the scenes orchestration.
We also know that the name of our Purim heroine, Esther, is rooted in the Biblical verse “And I will surely hide (haster astir) My face from you” (Chulin 139b).
We know all this and more.
But pray tell: Did You really have to hide Your face to the extent of allowing, for G-d’s sake, an infant’s throat to be slit??!!
Your hidden face doesn’t get more hidden than when that inhuman butcher dug his knife into the chests and slit the throats of these innocent victims…
You asked us to remember – Zachor – what Amalek did to us. To remember and never to forget. We remember all to well. This Shabbos we will remember yet again. But now, with the latest blood-drenched bodies in Itamar, we don’t need a reminder to remember; their blood cries out to us. It’s hard to forget what you see with your own eyes.
Our quesiton to You is whether You remember? You also obligated Yourself to fulfill every command You gave us. Do You remember even as your face is shrouded and concealed? Do you remember us?…
My colleague Dennis Prager wrote a heart-wrenching piece, The Other Tsunami, on what type of monster it takes to brutally slaughter children. How unnatural it is for a human being to kill an innocent child, and how much “training” and “education” is necessary to lose any semblance of compassion toward pure children. His chilling words capture the brutal reality of this and other attacks on Jews, and there is no need for me to reiterate it here.
However, what I would like to know, dear G-d, is how You see it? I understand that Your beautiful face is concealed. But how concealed can You get? How much will You tolerate and how concealed will You allow Yourself to become?
Was the holocaust not enough concealment?
And we would like to know what it’s like to see all this pain from behind Your hidden face?
I also know that in the Purim Megillah You have already planted a tailored response to this and any other tragedy: Life is filled with surprising twists and turns. Just as our lives can turn, in a blink, from normalcy to disaster, one moment the Jews were living in peace, and a moment later, a decree was issued to annihilate the entire Jewish nation, they can also turn as quickly the other way around, from catastrophe to joy.
Purim’s essential message is one of total reversal of fortune – v’nahafoch hu (Esther 9:1), ha’chodesh asher ne’hepach lo’hem (9:22) – the month had been transformed for them from grief to joy, from mourning to a festive day.
Purim is a story of surprises. What you see is not what you get. Everything is turned inside out and outside in, upside down and down side up. We therefore understand that despite the recent calamities, we surely will be redeemed, and our grief and mourning – for the Fogel family – will turn into joy.
We know all this too well. As Jews we have seen the abyss many times, and… survived.
But did we really need yet another slaughter of a pure family?!…
How much grief and mourning will it take to show us that things can be transformed to celebration?
We surely also appreciate all Your blessings, all the gifts that You bestow upon us daily. We are deeply grateful. But that does not compensate for the suffering some of us endure. And indeed, You instructed us to cry out and do whatever we can for those in pain. You created us in a way that our hearts break when we suffer and see others suffer.
We stand in awe and shudder before Your seemingly infinite capacity at concealment…
But with all the profound mystery of Your concealment (sod ha’tzimtzum they call it), and all the secrets behind Your greater plan – will we ever get some respite?!
How does a concealed face look at a baby bleeding to death???
How does it feel from behind the veil? From behind the “hastir astir” (Esther) of your face?
It must be very lonely behind the mask…
What does it look like from “behind the curtain” and the “doors of perception”?
I know You can see it from our perspective as well. And I know that You shed tears when we do. But at the end of the day, You also have the advantage of seeing it from Your vantage point. And we don’t.
That makes all the difference.
Help us out here a bit. We sorely need it.
We have lived in the dark long enough. It’s high time to take off Your mask and cloak, and show us Your face. As You Yourself promised: “No longer shall your Teacher hide Himself behind robe and garment, but your eyes will behold Your Teacher” (Isaiah 30:20), “for they shall see eye to eye” (Isaiah 52:8).