We all know the word “beshert”. We feel in our bones that sometimes G-d intervenes and instigates a series of seeming coincidences leading us to make the right choice, to succeed or to be saved from a serious loss. I often ask married couples to tell me how they met. In the story everything is beshert, they can see G-d’s hand working behind the scenes.
However, when evil hits, we cannot see G-d’s hand anywhere, and with good reason. As the psalmist cries out, “My G-d! My G-d! Why do You abandon me…?” (Psalms 22:2). Interestingly, the Midrash puts these words into the mouth of Queen Esther. Esther’s book is the only book in Tanach that does not mention G-d. Yet when we read it, we see G-d’s hand behind every detail. With the benefit of hindsight, we see that G-d was there all the time. At the time, though, Esther cannot see Him at all. Her very name, say our Sages, comes from the verse “On that day I will utterly hide (haster astir) My face” (Deuteronomy 31:18).
Of course, when evil hits, no amount of philosophizing can help. It is not comforting to know that with the benefit of hindsight or using some different paradigm, this evil is actually good. Even though Jewish philosophy explains that what we perceive as evil is not actually evil, we still mourn at funerals and on Tisha Bav. No theological explanation of the Shoah can (or should) take away the pain. At some level, therefore, there are no answers, only questions.
We can, however, read the Torah. This week we read that if we fulfill our side of the bargain, G-d will give us peace and prosperity in the landof Israel. If we do not, G-d will exile us from our land. “I will bring such insecurity upon those of you who survive in your enemies’ land that the sound of a rustling leaf will make them flee from the sword… you will thus be destroyed among the nations. The land of your enemies will consume you.” (Leviticus 26:36-38)
We know that our ancestors did not live up to their side of the bargain. In the first Templeperiod, we learn it was idolatry and murder, in the second Templeperiod there was causeless hatred (sinat chinam) to the point of civil war. G-d responded by punishing us with exile. All the persecutions of the last two thousand years are results of that exile.
This exile will not last forever:
“But when the time finally comes that their stubborn spirit is humbled, I will forgive their sin. I will remember My covenant with Jacob as well as My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham. I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:41-42)
We like to praise the State of Israel that it gives us security wherever we are. Whenever Jews are in trouble, the State of Israel will rescue them. The truth is that the State is not the cause of our new security. It is the hand of G-d that we see again in our history. Again, we can look, as Esther did, into the recent history books, and see the hand of G-d. We see G-d at the United Nations in 1947 when the international community gave us a homeland, the only vote of the Cold War where the USAand the Soviet Unionagreed. We see G-d in Israel’s wars, in the miracles of 1948, of the 1967 Six Day War, even of our survival in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. We pray that soon everything in our lives, in our world, will be beshert.