Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Are we really living in the year 2020 or is this some mid-evil period of history we have been transported to overnight? I am so horrified at what has become, but mostly, I am at a loss of how to act, react and function from moment to moment, much less, day to day. I cannot accustom myself to this self-imprisonment, this morbid isolation from family and flock, and, in the dark of the night, I have begun to question G-d.
You see, I am a rabbi of a large congregation and I find myself becoming unable to fill my duties to my congregants. Just yesterday, I lost it at a gravesite of one of my oldest members and dearest friends. Out of shame and great pain, I turn to you because I know that my vision is clouded and my soul is lost. Perhaps you can give me the words that will pull me up and out of this metaphorical quicksand I am in, as I can no longer find the answers to my own questions let alone those of my wife, children and congregants.
Why has Hashem visited this upon us? Have we all betrayed Him? Why do so many good, decent and pious people have to suffer and die? Please, don’t judge me harshly for asking questions I should never be uttering or thinking, but I feel myself one step away from going over into the dark side and I’m afraid it is a place I may never come back from.
A Rabbi in Pain
I judge no one but myself, so have no fear of that. Reading your letter, I felt my heart clench and a lump form in my throat. I could actually feel the searing pain behind each word.
First, let me offer the simplest small comfort by saying what is most evident. You are as human as we all are and your being a rabbi does not exempt you from moments of human failure. What sets you apart from the rest of us is that you have devoted a vast part of your life to G-d’s Work and the mentoring of His flock. You find yourself in this momentary whirlpool of doubt, darkness and loss of faith and purpose. You have let go of the life preserver of emunah and bitachon that would readily pull you out of the endless pit in which you are sinking.
Our Heavenly Father does nothing without our best interest at heart, there is always a reason for what we are made to suffer even though is not clear to us. I will try to answer your questions based on my own understanding.
Why do bad things happen to good people? From people much more learned than I, I was given to understand that souls, oft times, are recycled and return to another life, sometimes a number of times, so that they can correct and make takanos so that they will enter Gan Eden in a state of purity. This understanding gives me great comfort.
Perhaps we are all sinners? Do we speak lashon hara? If we are all created in G-d’s image, then, when we mock and speak badly of another, are we then not mocking Hashem indirectly? In addition, it is our responsibility to look out for the sanctity of our brethren and if we look away from his misdeeds, do we not bear responsibility?
We are the teachers of the world; by our example will we be judged by other nations and by Hashem? If we fall short, individually or collectively, if we turn a blind eye or deaf ear to the act and the transgressions of our brothers and sisters, than we are guilty by default because we are to be “a light onto the nations.” For everything that befalls us, there is a reason. Wise is the one who sees that.
There is still time to repent, to change our ways, now that we understand the value of life over useless luxury. Our Father is waiting for us.
Rabbi, reach into yourself and unfurl the lifeline of faith to which you committed yourself. You hold the key to that which you think you have lost. Grab hold of your love for the Ribbono Shel Olam. You were never needed more than at this moment. Your destiny was never of more importance than now. Find love and reverence for all that you devoted your life to and find your way up to Hashem’s will. We all look to our rabbis and spiritual leaders for this, so step up and take your place, do your job to prepare your flock for the coming of Moshiach, because he is already here!