Many of us believe we will have an opportunity after our stint upon this earth to stand before a great mahogany desk in the sky and demand of G‑d, “If You are so kind and omniscient, why were You silent?” And then G‑d will show us the view as He sees things, and all will be answered.
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps at the end of all things, at the core of all wisdom, at the very essence of all being lies not an answer, but a question. Perhaps many questions. And who knows, perhaps this question is one of them.
Perhaps G‑d will simply counter our question with yet another and ask, “So what did you do to answer this question?”
And if we will say, “I did nothing, because I saw you did nothing,” then He will say, “So this that you asked, was it a question? Or was it just another answer?”
For that is the only bad question: the one that is not a question at all, but merely an inexpensive excuse to shrug our shoulders and scurry back to our holes, to do nothing.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Question?” (And when do you get to ask it?)
from “The Freeman Files”
I probably write a pretty strange blog, especially in the “religious space.” Most religious blogs are all about giving answers to tough (or not so tough) questions on theology, doctrine, history, Bible translations, and so on.
I don’t do any of that. The idea of being the “Bible answer man” just repels me if, for no other reason, than because we aren’t so sure of our answers. Watching just the Christian religion and all the opinions, denominations, sects, and cults out there should be enough to convince even the most casual observer that we’re all madly dancing on the head of a pin anyway. What the heck to we know?
OK, it’s probably not that bad, but even I, a self-avowed Christian (albeit an unusual one), get disgusted with all the confusion and chaos within my own faith at times. What disgusts me even more than the chaos, is the amazing audacity of some folks out there who seem absolutely sure they have all of the answers all of the time. On top of that, they plan to build churches, schools, Jerusalem councils, and whatnot on the foundation of their opinions, and then they turn around and trash anyone who doesn’t agree with their set of arbitrary absolutes.
I sound like a very strange Christian right now, don’t I?
But as Rabbi Freeman points out, if we expect God to lay it all out for us before we can do anything about anything, all we’ll end up doing is “scurrying back to our holes” and hiding in the dark.
I must admit there are times when that sounds terrifically appealing.
But no, I can’t.
No, really. One of my favorite bloggers, Asher closed up his Lev Echad blog and walked away from it all. His motives are his own and I’m sure they aren’t the same as mine, (when I’m tempted to throw in the towel) but he seems to have ended his stint on the blogosphere as an act of faith.
Look through the history of the Jewish people (especially Israel) and there is a simple conclusion that can be drawn: God is orchestrating events. Even when it’s difficult to understand certain events, we can still control our reaction to them. In fact, Jewish tradition has it that the Final Redemption will occur when we realize that we can only rely on God. If we but take our incredible history to heart, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to come to that conclusion.
I admired Asher’s writing because he had no ax to grind, no agenda (hidden or otherwise), no theological complaint to harangue the rest of us with. He just wanted (and probably still wants) to promote unity between one Jew and another.
As for me, I’m still working on that whole “be at peace” thing.
Feel intense empowerment as you have the strength to remain silent when silence is the wisest course of action. Your silence will not be passive, but an active silence that comes from self-mastery. As you remain silent, hear an inner cheer. Your silence requires as much skill as any Olympic athlete. It is a victory that deserves a standing ovation. Hear an inner voice saying, “I’m proud of your self-mastery to remain silent.” Your silence is the mark of a champion!
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Have the Strength to Remain Silent, Daily Lift #563”
I’ve been reviewing this past week’s “meditations” and even in my most benign missives, I find that I couldn’t help making a few comments on those people and movements (though, not by name) who I feel also “struggle” with walking out the path that Jesus meant for us to follow. Frankly, it’s tough not to want to push back when so much of what people are saying “out there” is designed to sting you.
But if I were to truly look at Asher as an example and to take Rabbi Pliskin’s advice, I’d delete this blog, my Facebook and twitter accounts, and shut down my online presence completely. I don’t doubt that a few people would be glad that I did.
Is there a point to these “morning meditations” or are they just the random ramblings of a mind that needs to be busy with other things? Am I saying anything unique or just parroting the quotes of people wiser than I am?
Yesterday, you were inspired. Today, that is all gone. And so, you are depressed.
But this is the way the system works: Everything begins with inspiration. Then the inspirations steps aside—to make room for you to do something with it. For fire to become deeds.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
As I continue to wrestle with these questions and find no absolute conclusions, the only answer I can come up with is temporary. We were each given an individual voice with which to speak. How we view the world we live in and our place in it is different for each of us. No two of us walks quite the same path and all individuals have their own special vision. Those of us who blog, express that vision in words and the occasional picture. Others paint, or pray, or teach, or give to charity, or build houses for the homeless, or serve food to the hungry, or realize it’s more important to be kind than clever, or…
You get the idea.
Many paths, many people, One God.
But remember, One God means He is Lord of all. We aren’t. With over 181 million blogs in existence around the world, how can any one blogger claim to be so important? Many voices and each one is unique, but none of us is special.
Humility eliminates many of life’s problems. A humble person will not be bothered by life’s circumstances and will not envy what anyone else has. He will not become angry nor quarrel with others.
It is very pleasant to be in the presence of a humble person, therefore people will invariably like him. All of his interactions with other people will be serene and tranquil. Fortunate is the person who has acquired this attribute.
Today, imagine that a miracle has occurred and you suddenly have total humility. In what way does this enable you to free yourself from any anxiety you frequently experience?
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Humility Eliminates Many Problems, Daily Lift #564”
Many voices, One God. Many questions, no answers. But it’s not the answers that drive me but the questions. It’s not certainty of purpose that compels me to write the next blog and then the next one, it’s the puzzle of humanity and the mystery of God.
It’s Friday. Shabbat will arrive at the end of a tiny march of hours. If total humility is a miracle, then so is total peace. But for a small span of time, I will still my voice and cease my questions. Then I will listen. May it be His will to speak.
But if He asks me a question, how will I answer God? How would you?