This has been a challenging week for Israel, and for those who deeply love this country, worrying about family and friends who may be in danger.
In conversation with people the same themes comes up: relief that the Iron Dome is doing its work; once congenial Arab-Jewish neighbourhoods, are now areas of fear, horror and worry. Some of us read the news obsessively, some of us avoid all news outlets.
Last night at a Tikkun leil, a study session for Shavuot, my sensibilities were profoundly restored as I revelled in the depth of teachings about prayers I love, about how our sense of family and peoplehood grew from that first call of God to Abraham and about the Book of Job.
Rabbi Ed Feinstein, a long-time rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Los Angeles, taught about the Book of Job. Job is in the books of Chochmah, the Books of Wisdom, the third section of our TaNaKh (Torah, Neviim –Prophets, and Ketuvim, Writings/Books of Wisdom), and it was viscerally the right book for him to turn to and teach from, in the middle of all this political chaos.
Job is often thought of as that quintessential nowhere man. Job is that man who continues in his faith, in the face of plenty and in the face of loss. Even as God finally addresses Job in a whirlwind of words of almost random absurdity, of chaos, of uncertainty, even as God presents a Self Who created and lives in the very wildness of Creation, Job holds his faith. Job holds position, in his small, perhaps domesticated, faith.
Within the Book of Job we read a triptych of positions – from a, initial radical acceptance of faith, to a voice of protest, a test of that faith, and finally to a simple voice that just says, “yes”. There is evil, yes, there is much evil in this world. We recognize from this book that none of our religions/traditions can claim to solve the problem of evil. But our tradition gives us tools with which to address evil. One of those tools is this astounding book of Job, a book that challenges God and so challenges us in that very reflection.
As Rabbi Feinstein asked – how did this book ever get included in our canon? His answer was fundamentally sound. Job and all the questions that Job brings to the surface are our questions. Our emptiness. Our sense of loss and despair. And yet. Our tradition, our community, is solid enough to hold those questions – and more.
And finally, there are many ways we can reach out to help Israel right now. Chesed, love, is what we do. Step by small step. Like Job. Here are a few links to consider, if you are in a position to help.
Magen David Adom: https://www.cmdai.org/en/
Jewish National Fund: https://jnf.ca/
May we soon see a true working commitment to peace.