Yesterday was my birthday. Many of the messages I received from friends and family went something like this:
‘Happy Birthday. Sorry it has to be under these circumstances.’
‘Happy Birthday. Hope you’ll find a way to celebrate if but a little bit.’
So although sad, overwhelmed and outraged, my husband and I decided to celebrate at a special chef curated dinner at one of our favorite kosher restaurants in Chicago.
The meal was incredibly delicious and took my mind off the horrific suffering of my people. I was able to put down my phone and its literal doom scroll.
Towards the end of this repast, I couldn’t help overhear a customer speaking with the owner and front of the house staff. From outward appearances, this frum Jew was pontificating that the barbarity, depravity and pure evil of Hamas perpetrated on the Jewish people was really just God’s plan to help unify the Jewish people. After all, he continued, there were all those pro-Democracy demonstrations and army elite who were threatening not to serve because of the now past government’s plans for judicial reform. Now because of Hamas, Israel and the Jewish people are united again. מי כעמך ישראל!
At that moment, I almost regurgitated my beautifully crafted fare.
Because that statement is no different— and maybe even worse- than those who have contextualized the absolute evil done to my people. The very same folks who have trouble naming the raping, torture and killing of elderly, women , toddlers and babies.
Because when you put God back directly into history, it means that those who perpetrate evil are simply God’s agents. And if they are God’s agents, they have done nothing wrong. We want to connect to HaShem, but He pulled himself out of our day to day so that there would be no mistaking that God is not behind the absolute evil we are experiencing.
This Shabbat we being the Torah again with Sefer Bereisheet. God begins at a rapid clip to create the world. Before he creates human beings-in the first version- he comes to a stop and asks—his God-self or perhaps angels as indicated in the Midrash- ‘Let us make humankind in our image after our likeness.’ ויאמר אלקים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו
A famous Midrashic interpretation describes this moment as God debating with the Angels whether or not to create human beings. (Bereisheet Rabba 8:5)
אָמַר רַבִּי סִימוֹן, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לִבְרֹאת אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נַעֲשׂוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת כִּתִּים כִּתִּים, וַחֲבוּרוֹת חֲבוּרוֹת, מֵהֶם אוֹמְרִים אַל יִבָּרֵא, וּמֵהֶם אוֹמְרִים יִבָּרֵא, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (תהלים פה, יא): חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת נִפְגָּשׁוּ צֶדֶק וְשָׁלוֹם נָשָׁקוּ. חֶסֶד אוֹמֵר יִבָּרֵא, שֶׁהוּא גּוֹמֵל חֲסָדִים. וֶאֱמֶת אוֹמֵר אַל יִבָּרֵא, שֶׁכֻּלּוֹ שְׁקָרִים. צֶדֶק אוֹמֵר יִבָּרֵא, שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֶׂה צְדָקוֹת. שָׁלוֹם אוֹמֵר אַל יִבָּרֵא, דְּכוּלֵיהּ קְטָטָה. מֶה עָשָׂה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא נָטַל אֱמֶת וְהִשְׁלִיכוֹ לָאָרֶץ, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (דניאל ח, יב): וְתַשְׁלֵךְ אֱמֶת אַרְצָה, אָמְרוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים מָה אַתָּה מְבַזֶּה תַּכְסִיס אַלְטִיכְסְיָה שֶׁלָּךְ, תַּעֲלֶה אֱמֶת מִן הָאָרֶץ, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (תהלים פה, יב): אֱמֶת מֵאֶרֶץ תִּצְמָח.
Rabbi Simon said: When the Holy One blessed be He came to create Adam the first man, the ministering angels divided into various factions and various groups. Some of them were saying: ‘Let him not be created,’ and some of them were saying: ‘Let him be created.’ …
Kindness said: ‘Let him be created, as he performs (does) acts of kindness.’
Truth said: ‘Let him not be created, as he is all full of lies.’
Righteousness said: ‘Let him be created, as he performs acts of righteousness.’
Peace said: ‘Let him not be created, as he is all full of discord.’
What did the Holy One blessed be He do? He took Truth and cast it down to earth. That is what is written: “You cast truth earthward” (Daniel 8:12).
The ministering angels said before the Holy One blessed be He:
‘Master of the universe, why are You demeaning Your very seal?
Let Truth ascend from the earth.’ That is what is written: “Truth will spring from the earth” (Psalms 85:12).
The Holy One Blessed be He, in his love of humanity , created us with the belief that we are not inherently evil but that we have the potential to do evil or good. God gives us free choice to either do good or evil and that we will be ultimately judged by our actions.
God is not evil nor does he have evil agents. God is good and is on the side of good.
God did not use Hamas terrorists as agents for a broader purpose of bringing the Jewish people together.
HaShem does not sacrifice life is such horrific way for the purpose of unity, achdut.
The holy souls murdered died at the hands of evil and it is incumbent upon us, Hashem requires us, to root out the evil and eradicate it.
To assign meaning to this horror— to believe that HaShem – Chas V’shalom- created this to teach us a lesson is a blasphemy greater than those that contextualize this evil.
Every soul lost was an entire world—- and if this is a price for unity, then we have paid far too much.
May God bring peace to Israel, avenge our enemies who seek to destroy us and bring our ultimate redemption speedily in our day.