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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The finger of G-d

It has been my experience that many people who have even a passing belief in a higher power (and amazingly, even some who don't) tend to lay events at G-d's doorstep under two specific sets of circumstances:

Why Me?:  People seldom ask "Why me G-d?... what did I do to deserve this?" when they win lotto, have healthy children or experience any similarly positive miracle.  But when tragedy strikes, the same people will quickly beat a path to G-d's door and demand explanations.  I'm guilty of this to some extent.

Poetic Justice!  This is the external, mirror-image version of 'Why me?'  People seldom look at positive events or windfalls that happen to someone they hold in high esteem and say "Gee, I can't think of anyone who deserves that more!", because, well, sure we can... we deserve it more!  But let tragedy befall the perceived villains in our lives and too often you'll hear things like "Aha!... that's just proof that there is a G-d!" coming out of our mouths.  Again, I'll admit to having stooped to such petty behavior in a moment of weakness. 

At this time, while the fate of a human being named Ariel Sharon remains unclear, I think it would be extremely unfortunate for anyone to make gleeful claims of 'poetic justice' or to ascribe the Prime Minister's stroke to punishment administered by the hand of G-d.

Yes, as a religious person I like to assume that the influence of the Creator's hand is felt, at least passively, in all events.   But to single out the misfortunes of those we oppose as proof that G-d shares our agenda is (IMHO) the height of arrogance. 

It seems to me that those who are publicly engaging in this unseemly claim of partnership with the Creator are risking, if not an outright slap from the hand of G-d... then at least a well-deserved gesture from one of His fingers.
[Source and explanation here.]

By all means, watch the news... speculate intensively on what the political landscape might look like tomorrow... even indulge in a little well-placed anger at the media for once again deliberately misleading you by underplaying the gravity of Sharon's stroke 18 days ago.  But please don't let me see anyone I know and respect saying stuff like this today.


Posted by David Bogner on January 5, 2006 | Permalink


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It is worth noting that although his comment was given the headline, the comment in the Post was made by an individual who, according to the article represents very few. '...A small radical group...' was the description used. I believe that even those who would be glad to see Sharon out of the political arena do not take pleasure in Sharon's human body failing it's owner or in the pain and suffering this is causing his family and friends. There will, sadly, always be those who can find it in their hearts to praise a tragedy, but I think they find themselves in the minority.

Posted by: nrg | Jan 5, 2006 11:27:42 AM

Ahmad Jibril and Naif Hawatmeh: two old clowns who were not considered important enough to us to do them in. Who cares what they say?

What is more revolting is our own kooks - I have already heard one today - happy about Arik's state.

Posted by: SnoopyTheGoon | Jan 5, 2006 1:10:32 PM

I have no doubt the Israeli press is combing the "hilltops" for an idiotic pulsa-de-nura type to make similar statements. Must have "balanced" coverage, don't we!

Mr. Sharon's full name is Ariel ben Devorah.

Posted by: Ben-David | Jan 5, 2006 1:27:15 PM

nrg... This was just the first of what I'm sure will be many such quotes we see today in the media. Once they run out of ways to parse the same vague medical reports they will go looking for both the most heartwarming and the most offensive quotes they can find. I'll match the Jewish kooks against anything the Arabs can put up any day of the week for sheer offensiveness.

SnoopytheGoon... Like I said to NRG, I'm sure the moonbats from the Jewish camp won't disappoint. I just hope and pray it won't be anyone I know and/or respect.

Ben-David... Thank you for posting his Hebrew Name for those who want to offer prayers, positive thoughts or just good karma. As to the media going out in search of quotable idiots, lets hope that the doctors keep feeding the press regular updates so they won't get bored and go looking for the hate squad.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 5, 2006 1:48:32 PM

You know...there's a saying in Arabic: "Don't swear falsely [say "W'allah" and lie] in His name or He will break your spine."

Posted by: Account Deleted | Jan 5, 2006 1:58:39 PM

You took the words right out of my mouth, David. That's exactly how I felt when I saw the item, only you wrote about it and I didn't. Kol ha-kavod.

Posted by: Rahel | Jan 5, 2006 3:11:41 PM

Your comments raise a wonderfully debated issue throughout the ages regarding God's "intervention" in human affairs.

I think we all agree that blind shouts of "It's God's vengance" when something bad happens to someone we don't like is highly questionable behavior. As I think you intimated, those who say it is "God's goodness" when something nice happens to someone who seemingly deserves it is really the same side of the coin. Both are attributing some kind of cause and effect between God and an individual person.

I put it to your audience to consider the notion that God does not generally interfere with the lives of "regular" individuals, but he is always guiding us on a National level (Hashgacha K'lalit). By extension, then, an individual whose life impacts the Nation is more likely to be under God's direct watch (Hashgacha Pratit). Syllogistically it is not a stretch to state that what happens to Israel's Prime Minister is way more likely to be divinely triggered than what happens to most of the rest of us.

This idea goes against the widely believed concept that God "watches over" all of us, both individually and collectively. Instead it supports things like natural coincidences, which many Jews have been trained not to believe because it removes God from the equation of our lives.

Strong source on this issue - Rabbeinu B'chaya on the Ramban's analysis of Genesis 18, verse 19.

Posted by: yonah | Jan 5, 2006 4:02:54 PM

Goodness's sake, what a disgusting bunch of jerks. But what more can we expect from someone like that guy and his supporters?

Posted by: Irina | Jan 5, 2006 4:53:29 PM

I read that comment on a news site last night before bed and it angered me.

I also read Psalms and prayed for Mr. Sharon and Israel. It is so upsetting.

Posted by: Stacey | Jan 5, 2006 5:06:41 PM

I am (hopefully) your most UN-political reader.
So regardless of politics or sides or truth or justice, a great man has fallen and I pray for him and his family.

Posted by: lisa | Jan 5, 2006 7:32:47 PM

Even *I* am fearful of speculating whether or not The L-rd removed this king of Israel. On the other hand if there is one sort of individual capable of sponsoring such speculation .... it is surely a supreme leader (king) of Israel. None but the most craven of Sharon haters will dare open his mouth in derision of the stricken hero. None but the brain dead will fail to subconsiously (at least) be affected by his sudden and precipitous departure from the political scene. Goodbye Kadima. We barely knew ye.

Posted by: scott | Jan 5, 2006 9:30:05 PM

mademoiselle a. ... Good advice all around, wouldn't you say? :-)

Rahel... I do seem to have a talent for pointing out the obvious, no? :-)

Yonah... Thanks for the source material. I've always felt a little uncomfortable with people (especially our people) who make pronouncements that suggest they have some special knowledge of G-d's plans. I might go so far as to say it is OK to speculate privately about such things (e.g. Was the holocaust divine punishment for something... and/or is there a connection between the holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel that might suggest both were part of a larger divine plan), but to do so publicly is just wrong.

Irina... Unfortunately, I'm expecting much worse form some of the wackos in our camp. And I'm sure the media will have the sound bites playing on an endless loop.

Stacey... I'm sure this was just the first of many such quotes. Good for you for saying tehilim.

Lisa... That's really the point. Mortality is the big equalizer. Regardless of what people may think of the leader, that is now just a man in that hospital bed.

Scott... I think the phrase "Arik, Melech Yisrael" (Arik, King of Israel) was just sort of a campaign slogan. I am pretty sure they never actually made him a monarch (although some would argue that he sometimes acted the part). But I get your point. Unfortunately as it becomes clearer to all that whether or not he recovers his days in power are over, I'm sure many people who would never have attacked him while he was in office will now attack him while he is weak.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 5, 2006 10:02:55 PM

It is always dangerous, often hurtful, and clearly wrong to assert definitively why G-d chose to visit tragedy upon a particular place or person. (Witness the nonsense peddled about Hurricane Katrina and Gaza.)

I opposed the disengagement, for security reasons, and continue to believe that our pullout from Gaza will ultimately lead to a terrible bombardment by our enemies. But I cannot help being tempted by the thought that, for some reason we cannot fathom, it was HaShem's will for us to leave Gaza.

Sharon's stroke could have felled him last year, instead of this. And if it had, Netanyahu would today be Prime Minister and 8,000 Jews would still be living in their homes by the sea. Let us pray that future events will bring us the beginning of an insight into why our nation has been so tested by the tumultous events of the past year.

Posted by: Reuven Daitch | Jan 5, 2006 11:01:22 PM

Yonah - I may just be honing in on the part and not the whole here, but when you wrote -
"I put it to your audience to consider the notion that God does not generally interfere with the lives of "regular" individuals,but he is always guiding us on a National level (Hashgacha K'lalit). By extension, then, an individual whose life impacts the Nation is more likely to be under God's direct watch (Hashgacha Pratit)." And that "this idea goes against the widely believed concept that God "watches over" all of us, both individually and collectively." -

Can you tell me then, why bother atoning for one sins and worrying about being Sealed into the Book of Life, if he isn't intefering with us common folk? Isn't ultimately, our fate in his hands and isn't that fate based on our actions and what God determines to be acceptable or not? That, the when, where, and why is at his descretion alone? That God is really behind those natural coincidences and "cosmic fate".

Of course this doesn't give people the right, like David said, to publicly make pronouncements that suggest they have some special knowledge of G-d's plans and to use that to insult and hurt others.

Excuse me David, if by your reply that you meant for this not to be discussed any further here, but the more I thought about that paragraph, the more it seemed to me that it needed an explaination. I could go straight to the source that was cited, and it might answer this questions, but I am not very good decoding such writings.

Posted by: jaime | Jan 8, 2006 7:24:13 AM


Acoording to that particular philosophy on God/Man relations (certainly not the only nor most popular one) the vast majority of us do not experience personalized divine guidance. But I am not sure what that has to do with your question about following his commandments or atoning or living a Torah-centric lifestyle if you choose to do so ("choose" is the operative word here).

One wouldn't do what one considers to be the right thing only if one felt they were being watched, right? Otherwise you'd drive through every red light at 4:00 in the morning :0)

We can continue this outside this blog - my point was only to support the notion that since Sharon's life is intertwined with the fate of the nation then it is likely that some portion of his experiences may be part of a divine plan. That is NOT to say that God took vengence or anything like that...however in the big picture this particular episode has national consequences, some of which we can understand and some we can't, and this philosophy would dictate that there is a divine hand in it.

Hope that is clearer.

As for the source I am afraid there is no published English translation that I am aware of but your local orthodox Rabbi can certainly help if this topic interests you.

Posted by: yonah | Jan 8, 2006 12:23:52 PM

not to worry. should God have
need of A.Sharon, he will
raise him up. a blessing for

Jerusalem Light

A beacon flame
guarding Truth
while others
are cast
on the reef
of unbelief.


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