Bad things happen, and unfortunately not always to bad people; more than not bad things seem to happen on a pretty regular basis to either good people or at least innocent bystanders. Our news cycle is filled with it and for the most part we are powerless to do anything about it.
During my Sedarim, and throughout different discussions over the course of Pesach, fundamental questions came up about the plagues and calamities that befell the Egyptians both in the land of Egypt and at the splitting of the sea. The most difficult was surrounding the plague of the first born. As the questioner put it to me at the Seder, there must have been, within the group of the first born, those who perished whom were but children, and therefore could not or should not have been held responsible for the atrocities that the Egyptians inflicted on the Jewish people. How could it be that God took their lives?
The discussion and myriad of answers that ensued did not do much to answer the question; God did it for revenge; God was punishing all the people; the punishment was not the death of the first born, but was the very fact that those that remained had to carry on with through this loss etc. The reality is God doesn’t need revenge, he could have targeted specific people who were 100% responsible if he had wanted to, and he is above and beyond our realm of understanding when it comes to this topic. We are in all essence, powerless to do anything about it.
How, in the wake of these questions, and the wake of so many calamities and tragedies that affect so many innocent people, do we maintain our faith in the guiding hand of God? It is a big question, and one that I cannot answer fully, as it is one that I, and I believe all people, everywhere continue to ask and grapple with on a daily basis. To do otherwise, would be placing ourselves outside of the realm of a human being. But I can provide an opinion.
Pesach teaches us, no matter how far we stray, how long our connection with God has been severed, how fractured and broken we are as individuals and communities we can one day rebuild that connection with him and feel his presence. We might need to wait a long time for the miracles to be made public, for there to be the fire and thunder, the splitting of the sea in our day. But we need not wait for the small things, the coincidences and things that just seem to land perfectly for us. We can see the guiding hand of God in our lives on a regular basis; all we need to do is want to see them. Getting the perfect job, or missing out on another, finding that house or apartment, missing the green light, or taking an extra moment at a stop sign – each and every one of these things, plus so many more, are just little examples of the guiding hand of God.
For me, the greatest example of this guiding hand is that once a year, no matter how far people have strayed, or how fractured families are; we seem to find our way back, albeit one night, to celebrate our mammoth exodus from Egypt, and engage with the possibility of our own redemption. It could only be through the guiding hand that this all comes to fruition.
Yes, bad things happen, and in many cases they happen to good people. Yes, it is sometimes hard to have faith in God or in his guiding hand that plays the universal game of chess. These troubling questions are enhanced as we commemorate those whom we have lost in the Shoah, as well as throughout the many wars and battles that our people have experienced in the Land of Israel.
But sometimes we just need to have faith and realize that the little things matter and are examples of God’s involvement in our lives.