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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776
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Godly Love Or Divine Abuse?

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Cheryl Kupfer

Cheryl Kupfer

Dear Readers,

I recently received a poignant email from a young woman who I would label “Confusedadox.”  She wants to be observant  – and TO FULLY LOVE Hashem – but is finding it harder and harder to do so as she cannot reconcile a Creator we refer to as a merciful Father yet Who seemingly allows the endless suffering and troubles that beset each Jew individually and collectively as a nation. 

I know that she is articulating what many others feel but suppress since they don’t want to “rock the boat” and potentially ruin their children’s shidduch prospects or get the “cold shoulder” from their peers.

In fact, there is growing recognition by rabbanim that there is a need for kiruv kerovim – – men and women who are frum from birth and yeshiva educated – and not just for rechokim – those raised secular and in an assimilated environment.


Dear Ms. Kupfer:

Today is September 11, the 12th anniversary of an unfathomable evil that destroyed so many individual lives, shattered families, and undermined the future they were entitled to.

But even worse, many people lost their innocence and the faith that fortifies them and keeps them going. For once the debris and the rubble and the smoke finally cleared, the question many thought of asking but dared not was, “How did God let this happen?”

I have long been tormented by the gnawing fear that one day, after hearing of yet another horrible tragedy afflicting our community, I will lose the little bit of emunah that still keeps me on the derech.

When I was in high school I asked my teacher why Hashem allowed so much bad in the world.  She admonished me saying that a basic tenet of our faith was emunah sheleima – complete faith and unconditional acceptance of Hashem’s will – without it I may as well go to public school!

I am frantically searching for answers, and I am hoping that you can share this letter with your readers who perhaps had similar questions and were able to resolve their issues or who can recommend a rav or scholar who was able to enhance their bitachon and emunah – which I am so desperate to reignite.

I truly want to embrace Hashem and love Him unconditionally – isn’t that what the Shema is all about? “And you shall love your God, our Lord, with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your resources?”

I want to so very much – but how can I love Him unconditionally – when I feel He does not love us unconditionally?  Rather He only loves us when we obey His rules, otherwise He punishes us.

And even when we DO try to follow the myriad of rules and commandments to the best of our abilities – so many of us are still punished because we fall short of His expectations.  Since that seems to be the default situation – failing to do His bidding – I feel that what He expects us to do or achieve is unrealistic, like asking a two year old to cut along the dotted lines, and when we inevitably fail, when we don’t do the perfect job we are punished so badly. Really badly. Just look at our history of oppression, persecution and genocide.

How can I love an entity Whom I feel is abusive and cruel?

I want to point out that my grandparents – my mother’s parents – were Holocaust survivors.   Now and then my Bubby would open up about what she went through in the camps, of what she witnessed… From time to time she would talk about her baby sisters – twins – and how she would sew them identical dresses and braid their hair the same way challenging everyone to guess who was who.  They were five years old when the “Angel of Death” Mengele, took them for his horrific medical experiments. She never saw them again.

When my cousin joyfully announced to Bubby that he and his wife were expecting twins, Bubby freaked out and had to be sedated.

My Zaidy was the only survivor of his immediate family.  His life was saved by a cousin who risked his life in the slave labor camp to get him extra food. This cousin lost a wife and a beautiful toddler in the Holocaust.  After liberation, he moved to Israel, to a place he felt he could be safe. He remained shomer mitzvot despite the gehenom he lived through.   However, his son, a young soldier, was crippled during the Yom Kippur war.  And recently, a great grandchild of his suffered a head injury in an accident and has months of rehab ahead of him. His prognosis is uncertain.

I think this last incident has pushed my faith over the edge.  Did my grandparents’ generation not suffer enough? So many tenaciously held on to their emunah despite what happened to them.  Why are they being subjected to more trauma and grief and torment?

Is this their reward for their unwavering loyalty to Hashem?

And what about all those daily emails I get asking that Tehillim be said for a critically ill young mother, a baalas chesed or a sick baby, or for donations for the widow of a pious Torah scholar who died prematurely, leaving behind many children?  Why did they deserve this?

We were taught that a leaf does not fall down without Hashem’s knowledge and doing.  If that is the case, it makes sense that we thank Hashem for all our blessings and that we have hakarat hatov for the good in our lives.  On Rosh Hashanah, when the chazzan uttered the words, “…the God of Avraham, the God of Yitzchok and the God of Yaacov,” what I heard myself thinking was… “the God of Auschwitz, the God of terrorists and the God of cancer.”

I shake my head in disbelief when I hear of a 95 year old Nazi being arrested for war crimes. Why was this evil, twisted, sadist given arichat yamim, living a peaceful, no doubt prosperous life, enjoying his beer and his sausage and his grandchildren?

The pat answer is that he will be punished in the next world and the tzaddikim in this world who suffer will enjoy an eternally blissful existence in the next world.

I guess that is my problem. I don’t have the emunah to fully accept this.  I am not saying it is not true – I just have my doubts – and I pray that someday I will be able to wholeheartedly and in simcha embrace the words of the Shema and unequivocally love Hashem with all my heart.


Readers can submit responses to magazine@jewishpress.com  

Cheryl Kupfer

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