Jacob Lasson

Thinking About Gd

Reflecting on the Divine
Reflecting on Gd in this world.

What makes Judaism and the belief in a Higher Power interesting is that even if one believes in Gd and the Torah in general, theological doubts can still regularly arise.

In fact, as I tell my hospital patients when providing pastoral care, “struggling with Gd” shows that one is more religious, not less. While there may be other legitimate theological paths to walk in, I will always defend those are struggle to understand Gd’s ways. Moses, after all, yearned to understand Gd’s ways, and did not shy away from confrontation. Neither did Abraham in regards to Sodom. The things that happen to people in a hospital and life in general seem random, unfair and cruel. In gut-wrenching times, trying to understand the Divine is a natural reaction.

Since October 7th, some have wondered about where Gd “is”. Or more precisely, where Gd “stands” on the entire situation in the Middle East and the greater world. Theological questions abound.

Was Gd responsible for allowing Hamas to carry out their atrocities or was it the free will decisions of the terror group? Was it the free will mishaps of the IDF to heed their intelligence sources and thwart the attack or did Gd “close off” the eyes and ears of key decision-makers? From a religious perspective, does an inquiry into the security failure even matter if one believes that Gd controls everything and there was an inevitably to it all?

Was the entire event (Who will perish….) foretold from Rosh HaShanah as claimed in the U’Netaneh Tokef prayer a mere two weeks before these attacks? What about the part that repentance, prayer and charity can deter the evil decree – ? Did none of the victims pray or give charity last High Holiday season?

Is there legitimacy to the claim that Gd created the world to mostly run in a way of Tevah, the natural order of things, namely that a terror attack that goes undefended will wreak harm? Or is every single thing that happens in the world governed by Hashgacha Pratit, Divine providence and approval -?

Theologically, how are we to understand Israel’s counterattack against Hamas? Is the entire operation entirely justified as a defensive war to defend against our lurking enemies, as Maimonides puts it? Is Gd at all distressed over the “work of His hands” suffering horrible deaths in Gaza? Can both ideas be true at the same time?

Can Biblical narratives and directives be relevant nowadays? Does Gd want Israel to inhabit Gaza? What role does Gd see for the Haredim in terms of civil and military service? How do we understand the Talmudic statement that “Torah study protects and saves” (Sotah 21a) in a practical wartime situation?

Reading and listening to the various messages and articles from Rabbis, Jewish writers, Israeli supporters both inside and outside of the government, one hears wildly different theological notions about all these questions and many more.

I always say that there is no more theological “scorecard” on earth to tell us what is happening and how Gd feels about it. We have no more prophets, nor do we have the Urim V’Tumim (the Divine oracle embedded in the High Priest’s breastplate) of Temple times to instruct us exactly what to do.

This all leads to an intriguing philosophical question: Are there no objective, concrete answers from Gd about how He sees the world in real time? Is the idea to simply trust Israel’s elected leaders and their convictions? Our own intuition? Each to their own Rabbinic guidance?

As a practical matter: It would be great if more Jewish Day schools across the orthodox spectrum and beyond would incorporate theological studies into their curriculum. Questions and issues of Gd’s role in the world and their lives in particular weigh heavily on Jews of all ages and backgrounds, especially when tragedies occur in their life and the Jewish world at large. Students (and adults for that matter) should be given the sources, guidance and educational space to discuss theology and theodicy. In the Synagogue I attend and in my own social media channels, I try to explore some of these topics with my audience.

Israel and Jews in general are living in historical times. Going forward, Jews of all stripes should continue to ponder what role Gd plays in world events. To me, that is a prime purpose of human existence.

Believing Jews recognize that Gd is guiding and recalibrating all of our national and individual free-will decisions for the ultimate benefit, but how it will all play out …. Who knows?

About the Author
Rabbi Jacob Lasson serves as a hospital chaplain in Metro Detroit, MI. He has multiple degrees from Yeshiva University and is passionate about Jewish Philosophy, Theology and Israel.
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