And so, G-d built failure into His world, so that He could give Man His deepest wisdom. To repair.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
How is repair deeper than creation?
-Posted by Avi
If you have unlimited resources–like G-d does–it’s much easier to throw out the broken pieces and start all over again than to keep them and get them to work.
That’s what Torah is–the ability to sustain the world while repairing it.
-Posted by Rabbi Freeman in response to Avi
God did that once. Destroy the world because it was easier than fixing it.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” –Genesis 6:5-7 (ESV)
Fortunately afterwards, God has told us that, even though it’s easier to destroy and start creation all over again, He will take another path from now on.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” –Genesis 8:20-22; 9:12-17 (ESV)
And while the sign of God’s covenant with Noah has been appropriated for everything from rainbow ponies to the LGBT movement, it remains for me the promise that even though it is easier to destroy and recreate than to maintain, God has promised to continue to “sustain the world while repairing it.”
But what about individual human beings? Can and will God sustain us while we’re “under repair?”
Recently, I’ve commented about the seeming randomness of the purpose of individual lives as well as how faith can wane and leave each of us feeling isolated and alienated from God. While God may wait for us to return to Him, will He wait forever?
I guess since the human lifespan is finite, the literal answer must be, “No.”
On the other hand:
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. –Psalm 103:6-14 (ESV)
We rely on God’s mercy outweighing His judgment for if it didn’t, then how could anyone survive, even for an instant?
But that doesn’t really answer the question. It’s not as if sin doesn’t have it’s effect.
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear. –Isaiah 59:1-2 (ESV)
On the other hand, does arguing with God cause a separation? We have seen times when confronting God has actually been beneficial, such as when Abraham interceded for Sodom, when Jacob wrestled with God, and when Moses pleaded for Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf.
And yet, when God told Abraham to sacrifice the life of Isaac, Abraham didn’t say a word.
So I’m at a loss. How do you know when it is appropriate to contend with God and when you should remain silent and accept what He has said as final?
I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone knows. I only know that a relationship between a human being and an infinite and Almighty God either requires the human to be completely terrified all of the time and to say and do nothing, or the human must have the freedom to interact and even challenge God at times for there to be a relationship at all.
We are awfully casual with God at times. I suppose we rely on not only His mercy, but on His desire to have intimacy with us. To be intimate requires the ability to not only converse, but to argue, debate, struggle, and even yell. But God isn’t a human being, so how we relate to Him can’t really be the same as how we relate to our spouse or other loved ones.
Yes, I know that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God being aware and that people are worth more to Him than sparrows. I also know anything we ask in Christ’s name will be done for us (though not anything asked frivolously or against the will of God), so we have these as indications of God’s great love for us.
But exactly where is the line that you cannot cross without permanent and irreversible consequences?
Maybe these are questions that should be left unasked or at least unanswered.
Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post describing God as a teacher, a “bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding,” as opposed to a harsh and punitive judge who elicits only fear from us. Maybe we only receive from God that which we look for, or to put it another way:
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. –Galatians 6:6-10 (ESV)
We can choose to fear God and obey Him out of that fear, and perhaps that’s where we all start out, or we can choose to see God as our great teacher who shows us the lessons for good. I suppose like in a yeshiva setting, we sometimes learn by debating our teacher, but only as a mechanism by which we burn away the inconsistencies and “dross” from our understanding.
In the end, we never doubt that what He says and does is for ultimate benefit. And we never doubt that even in our hottest anger or our darkest fears, that He always loves us. And He has taught us that we should always sustain the world while repairing it. That includes repairing who we are as individuals and repairing our relationship with God, sustaining it and not destroying it…and not destroying us.
Imagine a father tutoring his child, as any tutor will teach a student.
The child does well, and the father returns a smile of approval, as any good tutor would do.
Then the father laughs, slapping his child affectionately on the back, and they both laugh together, as only a father and child could do, the father saying in his laugh, “I always have this pride, this delight in you, that you are my child. Now is just my opportunity to show it.”
Above, our Father awaits His opportunity to laugh with us.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Father as Tutor”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Imagine a God and teacher who so loves us that we can also laugh with Him.