Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Does God Surprise You?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A variety of leading Ultra-Orthodox rabbis are speaking out regarding the political unrest which is spreading and deepening throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Their conclusion? It’s God signaling the coming of the Messiah and punishing the region for Israeli “contempt” for traditional Judaism as these rabbis define it.
According to Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian sector in Bnei Brak, “Recently it appears that there is a powerful effort to destroy and agitate the world of the Torah, through various attempts to prosecute kollels (centers of advanced rabbinic studies) and yeshiva students.” “When you try to agitate the world of the Torah, God agitates the world, Steinman said.”
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a religious leader who is believed to have mystical powers, offered a different explanation. “It is evident that many unnatural things are happening,” he said. “People have come to me and said that it’s ‘Gog and Magog’ (Armageddon). We cannot know. But it’s probable that any unrest that God creates shows that the Messiah is coming.”
Ultimately though, this story is not just about a couple of rabbis. It’s about how different people understand what it means to live a life of faith and in an ongoing relationship to a power greater than them.


The issue here is not whether these rabbis are correct. After all who could know? We can certainly note however that their view that all global events are driven by what Jews do to other Jews is pretty narrow, and that what they are preaching is a dangerous version of an approach found in every religious tradition on the planet – seeing God and world events as always confirming that which they already believe.
Why is that dangerous? Because that approach, used by any tradition, whether to defend a so-called conservative position or one thought of as progressive, reduces God a rubber stamp which assures the one wielding it of their eternal correctness. In a radical reversal of the Genesis tradition, such believers seem to think that God is created in our image, not the other way around.
So if it is easy to see how these rabbis, their Christian counter-parts who can be easily found on American TV, and their Muslim counter-parts who can be found on TV’s throughout the Muslim world, are all so problematic in their assertions of absolute certainty about what it is that God wants and means, why are they as popular as they are? What is the spiritual question to which all such arbiters of the mind of God are responding?
I think the question is whether or not one deems surprise to be a religious category or not. Is God simply a confirmer of what is already known, or something more? Do we experience spiritual insight as always confirming, or could it be, at least occasionally, destabilizing? Is certainty about God’s will an expression of belief or a signal of its weakness?
These are not simply questions for other folks, but for each of us. How we answer them is likely to tell us where we stand on what we really believe it means to live a life of faith.



  • Frog

    I have walked out on blind faith many times throughout my life while trusting God and his will for me,I have also contemplated suicide when fear consumed me as I became lost and felt abandoned by God. I experienced a divorce and became a part time daddy to my then 4 year old son,I was capable of surrendering the house and all that went with it to my ex wife but couldn’t surrender my will to God.I know that suicide is a permanant solution to a temporary problem and thank God that I didn’t do such a thing. I finally realized that if God takes care of all his birds of the air that surely He would take care of me.
    Lately it has been semi difficult to maintain my spiritual program as I see the world in disarray and allow fear to creep in and rob me of my joy. I firmly believe that Happiness is based on what’s happening in my world as Joy is based on my relationship with God. I often hear that FEAR stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real” and I then have to realize that God will take care of it all if I will just surrender and allow him to take the wheel.I am not at war today with human beings for it’s not flesh and blood that I battle but the forces of darkness that I fight in a spiritual war,therefore I try to shed light through the dark on a daily basis.I may only have a birthday candle to guide me but I believe that God will continue to lead me and provide me with light.

  • romanscapegoat

    why not talk about helping Muslim people free them selves from governments known to treat their citizens, the way Hitler treated the Jews….just as America needs the Muslims to be the” made up” terrorist,to give even more power to those who control America…the Jews need the story of Hitler to rally sympathy, quilt, a free pass for Jews who were not even a part of Hitlers dream, to own and control the highest positions of the world…NO ONE CARES ABOUT MASSIVE KILLINGS IF NO POWER OR WEALTH IS GAINED BY HELPING…GOD IS IN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING….just sit back strap yourself in a enjoy the ride…and only help those around you…and every time the jews talk about the true messiah coming someday…it is very disrespectful to god…god believes in spanking his children…there is no child protection services to call….

  • CullyRay

    dear Frog… your post is inspiring. Your struggle and the words you’ve found to describe it have touched me. Thank you… Peace and Blessings!

  • romanscapegoat

    frog…the anti depressants and other medications you are taking are causing thoughts of suicide…GOD BLESS AMERICA…we live in a country where unregulated corporations are allowed to kill of its cattle of consumers in the name of profit…smoke weed its better for you…a gift from god

  • R

    Even a cursory reading of the Biblical prophets shows that when God was angry with the Israelites and required repentance, he spoke to them through His prophets, not the Levitical priests. The contemporary rabbis are not God’s prophets. As far as I know, God has not spoken to, or through, them. They have no more of an idea of what God is thinking than you or I do. Therefore, they need to refrain from stating they know what God is/isn’t doing, is/isn’t feeling.

  • MH

    Good post overall.
    However, I would say the rabbis are not even wrong. Meaning that there’s no way to falsify their claims. Let alone prove them correct.

  • romanscapegoat

    all catholics obey the pope…isn’t there a top notch Jew in charge…or is this religion a big free for all…where is the structure, the organization, the discipline…this must not be allowed to continue…tear down the wall!!! tear down the wall!!!

  • Jason

    To answer the questions:
    Unlike Catholicism, Judaism has no central authority, so no there is no “top notch Jew in charge”. There are various movements, and the more right wing ones have leaders. Those leaders are who this article is talking about. In Israel there are religious political parties so some Rabbis have political power, but even there it’s by suggestion only (they can’t force you to vote a certain way).

  • NG

    The term Messiah is derived from the Hebrew “Mashiach”, which means “the anointed one,” and refers to the ancient practice of anointing kings with oil when they took the throne.
    Wasn’t this just a term invented by scholarly Rabbi’s to give the down trodden people hope at a time when their future was so dire? There is no mention of a Messiah as a supernatural being in the Torah. It was used as a term to describe Kings and priests.

  • g

    The attitude and stance of these Ultra-Orthodox rabbis is a clear demonstration how and why certain Biblical stories i.e: The reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, have persisted to this day and still inflame and influence the ‘religious’ to deny civil rights to a group of people i.e: Homosexuals.
    In the nutshell : an event occurs of noticeable magnitude: Earthquake, civil strife, tsunami etc. Ultra -religious, who only interpret catastrophic events in light of their dogma make a pronouncement as to ‘why’ those events occur which is rooted in their belief. No scientific studies needed, no research for real causes, just a ‘pronouncement’ is all they need to pacify their frightened followers and assure them that it won’t happen to them as they are ‘Chosen’ for their right way of believing and thinking. No one can prove that fallacious argument of ‘Prove that it is not what we say’.
    The religious leader, without much effort maintains and strengthens his/her power and position over their followers without much work at all.
    In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, methinks that whatever truly happened was interpreted by leaders of this nature. Their explanation is what ‘survived’ as the one true explanation and now , since it is in the ‘Holy’ writings and no one can prove the ‘negative’ it is accepted as ‘Holy’ from G*d truth that still poisons our society with hateful prejudice against a large group of people.
    So, that is how pre-Bronze Age still influence otherwise ‘rational’ civilizations and these Ultra-Orthodox are making sure that this absurd religious practice continues.
    Simplistic explanations for complex events..so easy, so lazy.

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