Why pursue the why?

When it comes to God, any answer to ‘why?’ is limited, by definition. Answers may approach the truth but The truth, is God Himself and only He knows and chooses when, how and what to transmit. This is an axiom. סוד ה’ ליראיו-the secret of God is [transmitted] to those who [truly] fear him-does not contradict this axiom.

Yet, it is part of the human condition to seek God, ולדבקה בו, and to attempt to approach him. We were created בצלם אלקים in the ‘image‘ of God. A similar transcendental urge that drives man to seek a wife, עצם מעצמי, because she is ‘derived’ from the rib of man himself, drives man’s pursuit of God. This pursuit takes place in spite of the axiom. It is no less than an irresistible magnetism sourced from spiritual connectedness. The pursuit defies logic and is materially translated into an axiology through Torah and Mitzvos.

Imagine training to run 100 meters in X seconds, where X was physically impossible, and you knew this to be the case. Would you train and improve and further train and improve with the ultimate aim of running in X seconds? Many would not. They would consider this a pursuit of folly. Even though we know we cannot reach Him, as Shlomo Hamelech said in Koheles 7:

אמרתי אחכמה והיא רחוקה ממני,

“I said that I am wise(r) and it is still remains distant from me”,

many of us still try. Trying isn’t defined by learning Torah and keeping Mitzvos. Trying also includes attempting to make sense of (rationalise, understand) the world around us and the sublime Heavenly purpose, through the prism of events that form our lives. For many, merely running the race in a time of X+Y, with Y>0, is worthwhile even if Y is somewhat large, because the exhilaration of approaching the time (essence) can itself constitute immense gratification. Using a different parlance, involvement with Kedusha is meaningful even if one cannot become completely Kadosh at the exalted Godly level.

Hurricane Sandy was a tragedy for many and represents a continuing challenge for those affected and those who assist in their rehabilitation. The pursuit of ‘Why’ in the context of the Hurricane is perhaps another expression of man trying to run the race in N seconds. Man seeks to reach a level of Godly truth and understanding. Man wants to know what he has done (wrong) to witness and experience such awful and awe filled ‘natural’ phenomena.

Recent medical research claim that during a time of trauma, MRI scans of the brain indicate significant interference with those components of the brain responsible for the transmission of speech. In one sense, this is the וידום אהרן phenomenon. When Aharon faced the untimely traumatic death of his sons, Aharon was silent. Perhaps current medical research argues that it was not simply a case of Aharon choosing not to speak; rather, Aharon was so traumatised, he simply could not speak.

In our world, there are professedly many self-styled experts who know via ‘Godly’ imbuement or a ‘conclusive’ deduction from textual sources, why Hurricane Sandy, or indeed any tragedy, was meant to be. Yet, these experts don’t seem to agree!

  • Rav Amnon Yitzchak is reported to think it is God huffing and puffing at America
  • Rabbi Noson Leiter is reported to think it is because of gay marriage proposals.
  • Rav Shteinman is reported to have advised the strengthening of keeping shabbos in order to protect against the effects of the Hurricane.
  • Mrs Katz notes that the Hurricane happened on the Chazon Ish’s Yohr Tzeit and cut out electricity. The Chazon Ish was known to be stringent on the indirect use of electricity on Shabbos.
  • Some organisations are reported to have sent emails that suggest it was because of Lashon Hara.
  • Some have been suing the Government over the Metzitza B’Feh issue. “Bright” sparks have attempted to linguistically connect the two issues in a distasteful manner והמבין יבין.

No doubt there are even more reasons, and new ones will emerge. At a time when people are suffering, and literally מעשה ידי טובעים בים drowning, is there really a need to engage in this attempt to run in less than those elusive X seconds? Is this the time to be spouting (sic) across the ether one’s “sure-fire” theory of why Hashem allows things to happen (הסתר) and/or causes them to happen.

I don’t think the trauma has really affected those who provide us with ‘here’s the reason for the hurricane’. If they had truly experienced trauma, their mouths may have been rendered silent, or in the least, speechless until recovery and renewal was in place.

As a lad, I remember seeing the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Goldvicht ז’ל attempting to say a few words during the Yamim Noraim. For 15 minutes, he couldn’t get a word out. He just cried. He was overcome with shock, awe, regret and repentance. I watched on with incredulity. My reaction was silence. I simply hadn’t seen anyone unable to speak because the days were איום ונורא.

So, you might be thinking, okay Mr Chacham, what’s your “answer” to the “why”. Well, I don’t have any answers. Instead, I’ll quote the Etz Yosef on Shemos Rabba 8:2 referring to the hurricane-like wind storm that carried Eliyahu HaNavi up to the heavens.

סוסו של הקדוש ברוך הוא סופה וסערה.  דבר זה הוא מסודות התורה.

The horse (chariot) of God is a whirlwind and storm. This is [one of] the secrets of the Torah.

Postscript: I, of course, recognise that victims of such trauma will need professional counselling and support and those conversations may touch on the “why”. I do not believe, however, that any of the reasons attributed to those mentioned above will offer the magical healing panacea.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

6 thoughts on “Why pursue the why?”

    1. Of course you can. That’s a completely different why. That why is rooted in halachic jurisprudence and the parameters within which it may evolve. The other why is a pursuit of the inestimable.


    1. He’d seemingly say that my approach ‘lets God off the hook’
      Well maybe, but that’s only if I have an expectation that he must always explain himself to me


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: