Sincerely religious people would probably not consider me religious while those who are not religious probably think I am Orthodox. I do not have an in-depth Jewish education, yet I have been an active part of the Jewish community for my entire life, traditionally observant, and fully accepting of the concept that what binds us to our people is our observance of century’s old traditions.
I say all this so the reader will know that I do not have any bona fides to presume to know what God is thinking. But, in the midst of experiencing the current pandemic, while simultaneously dealing with a related economic downturn, an environmental catastrophe that is here (not waiting to happen as some would have us believe) and the cancer of extreme polarization that has infected our political interfaces, it is patently obvious to anyone who believes in God, to conclude that divinity is sending us a message.
Therefore, I can easily imagine a conversation that is going on in the heavenly community over which God presides. As God sits disappointed over how humanity, God’s creation, has messed up the world given to it to inhabit, the good Lord must wonder how many more messages need to be sent to get humanity to finally figure out how to live together in peace and tranquility?
The history is clear. Message after message has been sent, yet humanity seems to have learned nothing. The Angels, lacking the broad sense of history possessed by the Creator, ask to hear what those messages were. God, ever patient, responds.
“I made a vow,” the Lord says, “that after the great flood I would never destroy the earth again. And you know a vow made by me cannot be broken because my children have to trust my word.” God explains further that while the vow will be kept, nevertheless it is possible for him to be disappointed in how humanity has conducted itself over the ensuing generations. As a teacher, God goes on to enumerate the messages he has dispatched over just the last 100 years.
From 1914-1918 I caused a great war during which 20 million people perished and 21 million were wounded.
When the Great War ended, I caused a great flu pandemic that affected 500 million people, killed 50 million worldwide and lasted from 1918-1920. I thought that my children would have learned after all this that human life was valuable and there is never a reason to start a war.
However, that was not the case. Over the next ten years greed and irresponsibility ran rampant, great fortunes were made but humankind had not learned the lessons I had hoped that they would have internalized. So, there was no choice but to cause a great economic depression that would force large numbers of people into poverty, move some people to kill themselves, and make others take advantage of the political system for their own benefit.
Once again, somewhat helpless and disappointed, I watched the world slip into yet another war. They called the first one the war to end all wars. Nevertheless, 20 years later they were at it again. This time, from 1939-1945, 75 million of my children died during World War II including 6 million of my chosen people.
This time I had hope that things would be different. America, with the war’s other allies, took responsibility and established global unions to ensure that this type of thing would never happen again, and I was proud of them. The United Nations was formed, regional cooperation and defense alliances like NATO, OAS, and the EU held out hope that finally, finally, humanity had learned the lesson I was trying to teach. Moreover, they did pretty well for 70 years or so. Sure, there were military skirmishes like Korea and Viet Nam as well atrocities like those in Rawanda and the Pol Pot Regime in Cambodia that resulted in many deaths, but none on the scale of the two world wars.
However, even during this period there were harbingers of future disasters. I watched humanity continue its unplanned growth and concomitant destruction of the atmosphere. There were conferences, treaties signed to address the issues, an organizations set up to improve the situation. However, once again, private interests stymied the intent of governments worldwide and the problem just got worse.
Perhaps the most disappointing trend during this period was the polarization that was going on in the political sphere. While I demonstrated during biblical times how destructive polarization could be even among those who ruled in my name, the message never got through. Even during the good times that followed World War II, greed and distrust turned people against each other once again. Where for a while there was a spirit of community, eventually I saw that, once again, people could not speak civilly with those with whom they disagreed.
So I had no alternative but to, yet again, cause humanity to be cursed in such a manner that perhaps, just perhaps, this time they would get the message of what it means to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with me, their God. Moreover, this time I had to bring down all of my wrath in multiple ways so the message would be clear. How? With yet another extended pandemic, a related serious economic downturn, clear evidence of the serious effect of global warming and political polarization so serious that it would threaten to destroy many countries of the world.
God stopped at this point while the angels absorbed all that he had related. After a while, one of the angels stood up, looked at God and asked, “What do you expect from them now?”
And God answered, “Now? What do I want now? The same thing that I always wanted. I want them to learn forgiveness.”
God went on…..
One of my children who now resides with me here said it best when Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”l. wrote:
“In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm, and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain. It introduces into the logic of interpersonal encounter the unpredictability of grace. It represents a decision not to do what instinct and passion urge us to do. It answers hate with a refusal to hate, animosity with generosity. Few more daring ideas have ever entered the human situation. Forgiveness means that we are not destined endlessly to replay the grievances of yesterday. It is the ability to live with the past without being held captive by the past. It would not be an exaggeration to say that forgiveness is the most compelling testimony to human freedom. It is about the action that is not reaction. It is the refusal to be defined by circumstance. It represents our ability to change course, reframe the narrative of the past and create an unexpected set of possibilities for the future…In the face of tragedy, forgiveness is the counter narrative of hope. It is not a moral luxury, an option for saints. At times it is the only path through the thickets of hate to the open spaces of coexistence.”
Then God concluded, “This is what I want from all my children to learn how to forgive and to be strengthened by that forgiveness and learn how to live together in peace.”
And the angels were silent and informed.