Here we go again. Once again we are beginning to hear ‘the reason’ for a tragedy. In this case the kidnapping of three Yeshiva students in Israel about 10 ten days ago. What is that reason? It is Divine punishment, of course.
For what, you ask? Well that depends on who you are talking to. If you are Charedi, then the reason is because of the new law drafting Charedim. If you are a Religious Zionist, it is anti religious legislation and the willingness of Israel to give up parts of Eretz Yisroel for peace. I’m surprised no one has raised the Tznius issue as a reason yet.
Looking for a spiritual cause of a tragedy is a time honored tradition in Judaism. As God’s chosen people, we are told that whenever there is a great tragedy in the world, in addition to the reasons that specifically apply to them, God also intends His people to get a message out of it. Legend has it that when the Chofetz Chaim heard that there was a devastating earthquake in Japan where many people died, he sought a message out of that for the Jewish people.
But today, it seems that this kind of thinking has been taken to a new level. Now, when just about anything goes wrong blame is placed on an agenda being thwarted. There is never any thought that there might be other spiritual reasons. It is always the issue of the day that is focused upon. So that when tragedy befalls the Jewish people – well that is God being upset that our agenda has been thwarted. Which is then used as ‘proof’ of the rectitude of that agenda.
I’m reminded of the recent meeting in Lakewood that addressed a rash of accidents in that area. The culprit? Long wigs. God was sending us a message about that by hurting innocent people in accidents. Women were told that if they shorten their wigs, all would improve. And sure enough – on cue, the very next week the claim was made (falsely as it turns out) that there were no serious accidents that week.
Segulos work the same way. It is an appeal to those in need by offering a spiritual solution in exchange for a contribution of a specific amount of money. Tzedaka organizations have been using Segulos to increase charitable contributions for years now. You want spiritual help for your problem? Give us your money and will perform this great Segula for you. Bnei Brak’s Kupat Ha’ir is notorious for doing things like that. They made such a pitch just before Shevuos, advertising widely across all the religious media.
To me all these Segula ads are one big fraud. And though fraud is not the intent of blaming a tragedy on a thwarted agenda, it is equally erroneous to make that claim. There are no Nevi’im today. Prophecy is gone. We cannot know why God allowed a tragedy to happen. To presume you know or to even suggest that it is likely – is the height of arrogance to me.That different groups use their own agendas as the ones being thwarted proves it. It is no different that trying to explain the reasons for the Holocaust as some do.
We have no clue what the spiritual reasons are for any tragedy, either today or yesterday in the post prophesy era. All we can ever really know is the physical reality of what happened. Speculating about Godly reasons in our case can only add pain to those most suffering from the ordeal: the kidnap victims and their families. In essence what we are telling them is that even though those 3 teens were completely innocent of having any part in thwarting an agenda, God decided to send that message by making them suffer. How incredibly cruel and self serving it is to do that.
Instead of looking for blame, we ought to all be doing what we first did when we heard about it: uniting in prayer and supporting the Israeli govenrment’s all out efforts to find the victims and punish the perpetrators.
For some whose agenda is more important that the individuals being directly affected, that isn’t good enough. They take the opportunity to push own agenda forward by appealing to our spiritual side. They may not think they are being cruel. They may actually think they are being helpful because they do very much believe in their cause. But I would suggest that the evidence does not support them.
I believe that this kind of thing happens because of an over-focus on spirituality. I don’t think it is healthy to do that. We can’t really know what’s ‘up there’. We only know what’s ‘down here’. And we ought to focus on that. The only valid spiritual activity is prayer. The rest is Achdus. Achdus in prayer. And Achdus in Hishtadlus. That should be our main focus. Instead of using a tragedy to forward an agenda by claiming it is some sort of spiritual message we should all go back to the kind of Achdus that we saw immediately following this kidnapping. Our only agenda here should be the safe return of those young boys to their families.
Visit Emes Ve-Emunah . / Harry Maryles
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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