It’s been 47 years.
47 years of temple on the High Holy Days.
47 years of the same prayers.
Granted, I didn’t really know what was going on the first few years of infancy and toddlerdom, but it’s still been a while.
And yet, before this year, I never even thought twice about a passage that I now find glaring and confounding.
It’s part of the Unetaneh Tokef and reads:
“Who will be tranquil and who will be troubled;
Who will be calm and who tormented”
Out of context, this couplet makes perfect sense as, in every year, there will be those who are tranquil, troubled, calm or tormented. (Personally, I’m all four).
But taken in context, it becomes quite perplexing.
Preceding the comprehensive list of potential fates for the new year, comes the famous and fateful declaration:
“On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.”
The implication being that the subsequent destinies are the deliberate decrees of the Big Man himself, the Guy in the Sky, G-d. I guess I was always so fascinated by the potential for me to die by stoning or by beast that I never thought too much about the rest.
Here’s the conundrum…
The way I see it, troubled and tormented minds can only belong to the faithless. For, to have true faith is to know implicitly that all will be provided and everything is working out exactly the way it’s meant to. Faith means that regardless of external circumstance, your commitment to G-d and His plan is unwavering…which leaves no room for trouble or torment.
If G-d himself is the one who makes these decisions and seals them, is that to say that He decides that some should lack/struggle with their very faith? Testing someone’s faith is one thing. But taking it away is completely another. At that point what are you left with? A godless existence? Would His intention be just to see if the troubled and tormented, once taken away from G-d himself will find their way back? Doesn’t the very first Commandment proclaim that we should all believe and have faith in G-d?
If the passage said “Who will have a tranquil life and whose shall be troubled; Whose life will be calm and whose tormented”, it would make more sense, as the faithful (like Job himself) should always strive to overcome the inevitable challenges of life, big or small.
Life can be tough. And I pray that you and I are inscribed only for blessing in the coming year. But even more so, I pray that we always keep the faith.