Its all over the internet – 3 Israeli boys have been kidnapped on their way home from school by terrorists. My first reaction was, “Oh, G-d, NO!” and my second reaction was “why?” As a mother of three boys, albeit a little older than these three (my youngest is 20), my heart aches at the thought of not only what might be, G-d forbid, happening to the boys, but of the pure agony that their mothers are going through.
But after that initial, visceral response that every Jewish mother can identify with, the teacher in me took over.
A few months ago, I wrote and delivered a talk on how to know for sure that G-d loves you and as part of that talk, I addressed the issue of why bad things happen to good people. After all, if it’s true that G-d loves us, a question which often normally follows is, “So then why does it seem like He’s got it out for me?” So naturally, part of a talk about G-d’s love must answer that question.
In pondering the “why” of this situation, I first had to recall that even though there is always a reason, we are frequently not privy to it. In fact, for reasons that only G-d Himself knows, we rarely get a clear vision of why things have happened, we simply need to understand that in a universe run by an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Being, everything has a reason, even if we don’t know what it is.
And yet, people feel the need to have a reason so that they can make sense of the pain. And in that search, some have gone so far as to say that we are paying the price (i.e. being punished) for letting terrorists free, for allowing the gay pride parade, for allowing the Catholic Church to hold a prayer meeting above Kind David’s tomb on Mt. Zion, but the truth is, we will never know the reason, we CANNOT know the reason.
Although we cannot know the reason, in the midst of the pain and uncertainty, I look around and I see something very powerful happening to us. At the Kotel and in towns and cities all over Israel, Jews are gathering together to pray for the boys’ safe return. Outwardly secular, Dati and Haredi Jews are unifying to storm the heavens in hopes of a quick and safe return of our captured children – the nation’s children. They have become our children. We have been united in a cause; we, who have been so divided for so long are now, for a moment united. And as much as I know that I cannot know the reason, I cannot help but wonder if this isn’t it?
One of the ways that Hashem refers to the children of Israel is as grains of sand in the sea. Typically, we understand this to mean that the Jewish people will become too numerous to count and spread out all over the world. But this metaphor is also referring to our unique status as a member of the children of Israel, a part of a whole which is so much greater than any individual. It is only through recognizing that in addition to our individual relationship with G-d, we each have a part in a national relationship with G-d as a member of the Nation of Israel. Like grains of sand, as individuals we are tiny and easily lost, accomplishing very little, but put us together and….
Many grains of sand brought together can tell time, become artwork, and with a lot of heat and pressure, they come together to become glass. The invention of glass revolutionized the world. It allowed people to bring light into their homes, even in bad weather. It allowed us to create glasses and telescopes and microscopes and light bulbs, illuminating the world not only with actual light, but with the light of knowledge of things that are not visible to the naked eye.
When the Jewish people come together in unity, we can change the world, and that is what we were created to do. When we come together we are fulfilling our calling, the reason we were created. And though I wouldn’t even begin to assume that this is the reason we have yet again experienced national tragedy, I am certainly compelled to ask the question – “now, can we learn this lesson without the tragedy?” Can we learn to love each other and accept each other and respect each other even in the face of irreconcilable ideological differences and come together in unity to fulfill our calling and our purpose for being created? What would it take?