Do We Dare Assume We Know God’s Thoughts?

It was so so predictable.  A stone in the Western Wall of the Temple from Herodian times is dislodged from its perch and falls on a platform next to the Wall designed for egalitarian prayer services and on the day after the ninth of Av no less.  Could anyone have planned a better confluence of events and dates than this to prove, for the last time, that God looks with disfavor on those who stray from Orthodox Judaism?

As expected, today’s press was replete with comments on the subject and assumptions about the message that the event surely meant to convey.

Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Dov Kalmanovich said that Reform Jews should reflect on the significance of a large stone that came crashing down on the Western Wall’s egalitarian prayer plaza earlier in the day.  Kalmanovich, of the national-religious Jewish Home party, said in a statement, “We must not explain and interpret natural phenomena as signs from heaven, as the ways of the Creator are hidden,” but then added that “the timing and the location of the fall raise many questions.  The falling of one of the Western Wall stones, so close to Tisha B’Av, and exactly at the location of the controversial prayer area, should be a red light for us all,” he said.  “I suggest that Reform leaders, Women of the Wall, and the other quarrel-mongers examine themselves, and not the Wall.”

Not to be outdone the Rabbi of the Western Wall opined that the incident, having occurred the day after the ninth of Av observance, “raises doubts and questions which the human soul is too small to contain and requires soul searching.”

I am waiting for Shas MK Yinon Azulai to make comments as well.  After all, two weeks ago he stood in the Knesset and told all who were there that non-Orthodox Jews were not Jewish and that the practices of “progressive Jews” was what caused the recent earthquakes in the north of Israel.   It will be interesting to hear his take on this latest incident.

Three reactions come to mind as I watch this all unfold.

First, that it boggles the mind to think that religious Jews believe they know what God is thinking.  That approach stands so far outside our tradition that is, sadly, laughable.  Our sages have been delving into the meaning of natural events for 3,500 years since Sinai and have yet to come to any conclusion other than we simply do not know what God is thinking.  For people to state otherwise is simply folly.

Second, one would hope that at some point in time our religious brethren who look down on those who do not observe as they do will realize that their enemies are outside the Jewish people and not within.  One thing the sages have always agreed on and that is that God loves all his children as any father would.  To think otherwise stands in diametric opposition to 3,500 years of Jewish thought.

Finally, the archaeologists and others from the world of science have voiced informed opinions as to why 2,000-year-old stones might break loose from their moorings and have identified a series of probably causes, all of which are being investigated. Why must we look for supernatural causes of natural events, especially those that have occurred previously as well?

Interestingly, what no one has raised is how it was that bystanders were at the site of the stone’s fall with camera ready to be able to record the event from moments before it occurred through the stone’s drop.  Makes one wonder if there were not people whom, somehow or other, knew it was going to happen before it happened and that, perhaps, it was not so natural an event after all.


About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 29 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Immediate Past Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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