Today, my friend Greg said that “somewhere deep down – no, just on the surface – I blame God too, not for causing tragedy, but for refusing to prevent it (regardless of whether or not God actually could prevent it). Sometimes I just need a deity at which to scream. And I think God is okay with that”. I don’t know what it was in response to – the earthquake that caused buildings down the east coast to shake, a personal crisis that is going on in Greg’s life, one of the many news stories that Greg is constantly posting on his facebook.
What I do know is that this quote, in its essence, sums up why I converted to Judaism. I don’t know whether God can prevent tragedy. I don’t know whether God causes tragedies (though I have my theories about both questions). What I do know is that sometimes I need to rail against God. I need to scream at God about the injustices of the world. I need to whine because my cut is infected and it hurts. It’s not my best theology – but crisis theology is rarely the theology we would espouse when we are calm and thinking logically. I need a deity who can take it as much as said deity can dish it out.
When I converted, I was asked to write about two figures from Torah whom I admired greatly. I think people thought I would choose Rachel, Ruth, Sarah, one of the great, strong matriarchs who lead the Israelites. My rabbis were surprised when I chose Abraham. I wrote about Sodom and Gomorrah, about Abraham standing before God arguing with him for the lives of people he barely knew. Of all the Torah stories, this is the one that pulled me.
See – the Torah writers knew. They knew that we need heroes who are human, who fail, who make mistakes, who lie cheat and steal. We need heroes who are going to stand up and hold God to account. After all, we are a covenant people and we can demand that God lives up to God’s end of that bargain. We need a deity that can take the barrage of our emotions – from joy to anger to denial and back again. Torah is filled with heroes who show us that God can take it – Job, Abraham, Isaac (the great wrestler), the writers of Lamentations and the Psalms. These are the writers who show us that God can take what we can dish out, regardless of whether God deserves it.
It’s part of what it means to be a Jew – this arguing with God. It’s not all of it, but it’s there. We are expected to question, to doubt, to argue with God. Good theology or bad, crisis theology or the theology of our every day lives – God can take it. So let it out – rage against the injutices of the world. Whine when you hurt yourself. Argue with God about the tragedies that surround us. God can take it.
Just keep in mind…
I chose David dancing like a fool for God as my second Torah figure.