Monday, May 05, 2014

Emor and the problem of evil - an Ishbitzer

The first piece in the Ishbitzer’s Mei haShiloach in this past week’s parsha (link) sounds like it takes aim at the Rambam’s (without mentioning him of course) solution to the problem of evil.  In a nutshell, the Rambam says that instead of blaming G-d for the evils of the world we should be blaming our fellow man.  If country X decides to go to war with country Y and as a result thousands of people die, that’s humankind’s bad decision making at work, not G-d wrecking havoc.  What about earthquakes, tornados, etc.?  Those are unfortunate side effects of having a world that operates with certain laws of nature.  For example, our world could not be exist without a force of gravity.  As a result of that force, a piano might fall out of a window and land on someone poor unsuspecting person’s head.  That chance occurrence is the price we must pay a functioning universe.      

The Ishbitzer’s view is radically different.  “Emor el hakohanim…”  The kohen, explains the Ishbitzer, represents the individual who refuses to dismiss anything in life as chance occurrence; G-d and only G-d runs everything.  You can’t blame “mikreh,” the forces of nature, one’s fellow man, simple chance, for what goes wrong in life because every detail of what happens is under G-d’s control.  Paradoxically, the heightened faith of the “kohen” in G-d’s all- encompassing power can lead to a diminishment of faith, as the “kohen” must accept incomprehensible evil as being the handiwork of G-d.  Therefore, the Torah warns, “L’nefesh lo yitamah b’amav” - don’t be pulled into the tumah of challenging G-d’s actions.  Inevitably there will be questions about the application of midas hadin, about death, suffering, pain, but those questions and objections must not lead to a loss of faith. 

The root of the word for speech used in the pasuk is A-M-R, which the Zohar interprets mean “a whisper” (see last week’s post).  Where is G-d’s mercy?  Where is the rachamim?  Sometimes ain hachi nami, it’s but a faint whisper in the background, softly echoing in the ear of the kohen, reminding him not to lose faith. 

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