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Purim: An Open Letter to a Concealed G-d

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Dear G-d,

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).

[Signed]

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Forever Mom

I read the open letter. The tears are flowing as a waterfall of the river that is broken by sudden fall at the end of the path. In the bottom is nothing but rocks covered over by the body of water. It might be that our human tears are flowing together and breaking against the hardness of the rocks. Silence. Deep silence. Just a murmuring of the waterfall. Is any one listening??? Is any one watching??? Does any one care???? My son did not come home at age 18. He was killed on the way home. In the morning he… Read more »

David

Why does god get all the credit but none of the real blame? I hear stories of miracles how someone was supposed to be at the World Trade Center o 9/11 yet for some reason was not there and they THANK god. What about the person who lost a close one? What about the person who never went to the WTC except for that one fateful day? Who is telling their story? Are they allowed to curse god? No, we are expected to say that we dont know what gods plans are. How convenient. Rabbi, you mention the slaughter in… Read more »

Larry Silverstein

THE BRUTAL ZIONIST ROLE IN THE HOLOCAUSTTHE PRICE OF ZIONISM: If I am asked, Could you give from the UJA moneys to rescue Jews, I say, NO! and I say again NO! Izaak Greenbaum — head of Jewish Agency Rescue CommitteeFebruary 18, 1943 Addressed to the Zionist Executive Council. One Cow in Palestine is worth more than all the Jews in Poland ….Izaak Greenbaum ZIONISM IN THE AGE OF THE DICTATORS “The old ones will pass. They will bear their fate or they will not.” Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, made this Zionist policy very explicit: The hopes… Read more »

Ruth

One of many inspiring stories I once read was the following:A widow still deeply mourned her husband for a number of years, crying constantly and refusing to meet other men for a potential match. Her recently married sons and other of her older children tried to coax her to stop mourning and renew her life but she wouldnt hear of it. One night she had a dream and in it she was walking through beautiful sunny fields with chirping birds and lovely smelling flowers. All of a sudden her departed husband appeared before her smiling. She asked him why G-d… Read more »

Solomon Israel

Rabbi Simon Jacobson has done it again. Like father, like son. Excellent response of a Orthodox Jew to a murder maniac, like the argument between the messiah and G-d in the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni in the section before heenay ba geulaschem quoted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the famous public Sabbath speech, known as the LaPine Sichah. G-d smacked the messiah for winning the debate that we Jews have suffered enough. Rabbi Simons boss said How much more can we put up with? in effect. The boss then suffered a stroke after he shouted and cried to G-d: Enough is… Read more »

Steve Lazarus

Life is, indeed, filled with twists and turns. Thank you R. Jacobson for giving us this brilliant perspective…

Anon

And we would like to know what it’s like to see all this pain from behind Your hidden face? How much pain do you think Hashem is in while he watches his priests follow pagans? How much do you think it hurts Him to have His people place more value on rank and status than on love and compassion? Your words ring hollow. Even now, I can feel your mind dismissing my words because of my rank and status. The holiest of our nation are not in Kollel or synagogue or government office. They hide from your religious tyranny and… Read more »

Yasher Koach – you said it all.

Harry Abram

Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

I could not have articulated my feelings any better than expressed in your essay. May we all soon experience the ultimate bliss with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days!

Regards,

Harry Abram
Las Vegas, Nevada

Richard

We can wring our hands and question the unquestionable from here to eternity.I would like to see some response from the Muslim community. I would like to see more coverage from the media. There needs to be general worldwide community outrage and action. That will be the voice of Hashem. We are the voice of Hashem. Let us not be silent!

Yosi Barouch

Why did you have to remind us all of this tragic, Man bites dog, type of story? I was sitting back in my Easy Chair and enjoying my Shangra-la……..

we should also increase our efforts in spreading awareness of the sheva mitzvos bnai noach.

ruth housman

I used the refrain from a Jakob Dylan song I am listening to so often,and pondering the words. I will teach very soon, a class on the lyrics of some popular songwriters. I so appreciate the depth of anguish expressed in this letter, and I have been saying as much, in my own many love letters to the world. And expressing major upset. There are no words, for all of this. A living nightmare, or else, we are all asleep and there is a deep significance to the words a wake and, awake. My life is more than a dance… Read more »

Z.S.

Thank you for permission to express our pain and anger.

Aimee Aviva Zeltzer

Thanks 4 articulating the mixed emotions many of have been experiencing this past week. Can you make your letter a petiton because I would like 2 sign it. Shabbat shalom and freligah Purim.

Shuli Kleinman

First responders who rushed into the blood-drenched bedroom of 11-year-old Yoav Fogel last Friday night were confronted with a sight that nearly stopped them in their tracks. A colorful little wooden plaque hung above the slain young boys bed, proclaiming his love for his people and a prayer for peace between all. The prayer above Yoavs bed, written originally in Hebrew, reads as follows (in English): May it be Your will, L-rd G-d and G-d of our forefathers, That I love every one of Israel as myself, and that I graciously perform the positive commandment of loving your neighbor as… Read more »

Melech Bn Arieh

Lovely article to tug at the heart strings…Nothing more. We always ask G-D for the understanding of the maniacal mind, a disastrous event of nature, the truth lies within ourselves.That is the hiding place of HIM. We are created in HIS image, a microcosm of the universe. All we see is all we are and try to elevate ourselves from this minimalistic cinder block called life. Strike out with your hearts, not your brains. Lose your inhibitions, try being alive…More repression, more self control. Hes a prison.

Naftali

what a great article. Thanks so so much. Happy purim

Brian Yamstein

These events challenge our projections of G/d. We create this G/d concept and then are forced to come up with all kinds of rationalizations to defend it when life happens. Tzimtzum, Moshiach, etc. Why is it not enough to say, I dont know?

natasha Rachel

Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

Thank you VERY much for this powerful cry to HaShem. It is awesome to hear a Rabbi express his true heart ache in such a public way and more importantly I think you have done it with your prayer. HaShem has heard you and NOW the tides will turn! Amen Purim Sameach 🙂

Natan

Any Arab or Nazis cruel hand with knife may touch me or you or anyone else, wherever you are. But this murder will not rob us of our faith.

Paul Slocumb

Thank you, good Rabbi, for your extended psalm.

Leibel

You have expressed the thoughts of thousands.

norine krasnogor

Thank you. Hearing you, as a rabbi/teacher and Torah Jew, ask G-d, out of the depths of your heart and Torah learning, to reveal His presence with compassion and insight, following Itemar, the tsunami/earthquake, and all Israels and humanitys sufferings, is to courageously speak for many.

Chanie

Very powerful! May this be what it takes to get the message through and see results, finally!

Chaim

When tragedies of these two proportions occur, it is very hard to believe that there is a G-d. I lost my father to debilitating cancer when he was 53 years old. The following year I lost my first son when he was a week old. The following year I lost my second son when he was four weeks old and my mother died of alzheimers disease. As a yeshiva graduate, I philosophized and accepted these tragedies with little questioning. However, now that I have reached the ripe age of 82, I realized that my faith was misplaced. I have been… Read more »

John from Weston, FL

I guess the reason why these holy, innocent Jews were slaughtered is because evil exists in the world. But then one has to ask why? If Hashem is the creator, then he must have created evil as well….but why? And if Hashem is good and everything is for the good ( Gamzu LTova ) then evil must somehow also be good…but why? These are the questions that many of us Frum Jews struggle with. Were taught that the answer to the first question is that Hashem didnt want to create a nation of robots that are programmed to do this… Read more »

Tzivia Tyler

Did Hash-m feel,especially with the approach of Purim,that for most of us the holocaust and the leaders in the Arab/Muslim world are almost abstractions,but a family whom we can relate to NOW, who could be our very own family and the utter brutality makes AMALEK and our resolve more palpable/real to us?
Ad Mosai
Tzivia

Yitzchok in Pittsburgh

Let us all increase in acts of goodness and kindness, with the goal of bring Moshiach asap.

Jacenty Domanski

From the very year all bad things will happened up to Pharaoh Army to finish not finished Biblical chasing.

Esther Sarah Evans

bHThe truth hits hard when driven home, and the truth is we are ALL guilty, because we did not succeed in setting up a government whose leaders we can persuade to do the right thing in time. Thats one point. Another one – closely related – is that it is not HaShem, but we who are hidden – under the beds of our complacency – hoping things will take care of themselves. While HaShem can intervene when He has to, He wishes two things:1) for us not to stand by the blood of our brothers, and if we see such… Read more »

Rifka Saltz

Amen. exquisitely written. Halevi that we should receive an answer soon, speedily, with the arrival of Moshiach.

meira

I wish I could sign this letter too….thank you Rabbi for putting words to the feeling of these days, and not attempting to gloss over or find some pat explanation for everything. Thank you for your sincerity and your humanity.

Cashner

A deeply open hearted.

Blessings.

Rahmiel Hayyim

Again Rabbi Simon you are there to help us find a personal answer to the big question WHY ? we ask in light of these travails of the footsteps of Mashiach.

Natan

You have my acknowlege. Im terrified.

Patrick David

My heart cries for this Family and the people of Japan. I constantly think how will I go. I seen my Mom murdered and her body was found in the desert 19 days later when I was 5. I have to remind myself about Joshua 1:8-9. G-d saying his with us always. He didnt hide His face. If I believe and live Torah, Moses couldnt see Hashem face to face. So hiding his face is not a option.Im lost for words. All I can say is Keep praying and may we see the Moshiach today….

jnewkirk

Yes, by all means this horrific crime against this Family the children and mother and father was unjustified by G-ds commandments. The devastions in Japan is a just beyond concept. We all ask questions why, how come,but we do not know G-ds reasons and plans. We my incounter and feel anger, loss, and worry about what ifs! But, does not the Torah and the Bible show G-ds words in comfort and faith? I could not fathom all what has taken place, yes, it has angered me about the slayings, my heart goes out to the famlies in my ancient homeland… Read more »

Rand

As disgusting and animalistic as these murders are, it is time for Jews to wake up and accept that only they can prevent this from happening again. Arabs only understand one thing, superior force. As long as Israel bends over backwards to try to get arabs and the world to like and accept them, things like this will continue. In most of the worlds eye, you cannot get any lower than Jew. So no matter what we do, we will never be liked or accepted. So it is now time to protect Jews, especially in Israel. The Israeli government has… Read more »

tzilia sacharow

Dear Reb Simon,I met a young soldier, a medic who was called to the scene. His eyes brimmed over with tears and he could hardly speak about what he witnessed.Your words were so eloquent and put into words the thoughts that fill my heart and mind. all of israel is mourning. a big businessman who owns chains of grocery stores has pledged to supply food to the family for years and years and has been doing so from the first day, outpourings of love are going out to the foges, the road to itamar is filled with cars coming to… Read more »

Ron from Tzfat

B. S. D . Loss of life is certainly a tragedy when loved ones pass away especially when achieved through an act of violence, but an additional anguish is awakened within us because of the stark realization that life can stop for any of us as any moment. G-d hiding Himself is an illusion of reality created by the limitations of our senses, just like we dont see or feel our planet earth spinning on its axis at about 1000 miles an hour. G-ds perceive hidden state is only relative to the extent of our spiritual cataract. When we remove… Read more »