Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In Mimi's Mail: "I'm talking to you, G-d"

[The following is a back-and-forth that ensued following my "I'm talking to you, G-d" post, which was a reaction to the loss of a friend's parents. A reader forwarded her father's impressions, and I responded. ]

Hey Mimi, How are you?

I read your post on your blog, and I was strongly effected by it. The question of why do bad things happen to good people and bad all together has been something that I've searched and asked for a long time. After I read your post I sent it to my father and asked him what he thought .Normally I wouldn't send this, his response to you, but take a few steps back; it's not anything personal it's the theology behind it.

I asked my father if he minds me sending this to you, and he said he, "I don't care if she hates me but I care if she hates Hashem".

It is poetic.

It is immature.

It is theologically wrong.

They are not the words of a wise person with Yiraas Shomaim.

She's not R. Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, she's an American kid.

She hasn't lived long enough; what does she know about suffering?

Who is she and who is G-d?

Who told her it's OK to be angry at G-d?

Who said it's OK to "hate You today?"

Perhaps today is a day to feel pain and humility and awe?

Who said it's OK to have expectations and make demands?

Perhaps today is a day to focus on what we are here for and to ask G-d if we are living up to His expectations and His demands of us?

Words are very powerful. They can create and they can destroy.

It is not only G-d's words that are like fire; a person's words can be incendiary as well.

The right words can heal a broken heart and the wrong ones can destroy a healthy soul.

I wouldn't be asking these questions if she were a Holocaust survivor; I would hang my head and listen humbly, silently.

I do ask them if she a young person who is just beginning her adult life. She speaking out of turn and out of line


Dear Friend,

While I understand your father's response (and even find it praiseworthy on some level), I cannot accept the expectations and premises inherent in his statements.

My piece was not intended to tell people how they should feel, but meant to represent how many of us do feel.

It is fine if your father does not relate to my outburst, but to expect more from people is unfair. What I wrote was a reflection on the gut-feelings of many, sewn from the collective responses I heard and experienced. Someone from the family (a child of the parents who passed away) read it herself, related, and wants to use it on the family's site.

So your father may not think its "okay" - but it is real.

Sure, saying ‘its human” doesn’t make it right. In fact, Judaism usually demands we rise above our own humanness. But I believe that what we’re dealing with here is a kind of humanness that is more than appropriate.

Your father is right. I have never experienced what one might call true suffering, and I pray that I never will.

But this is precisely why I can scream out to G-d the way I did.

Your father maintains that a more appropriate response to pain would be to “feel humility and awe” and acknowledge G-d’s expectations of us.

But you see, this is not the place of someone who has not experienced the pain herself.

What your father calls “theologically wrong,” I call humane.

How can I tell people about being gracious and counting blessings if nothing “bad” has ever happened to me? How fair would it be for someone who has never experienced real pain to preach to others about understanding G-d’s ways and “focusing on what we’re here for?”

Now that would be "immature."

Furthermore, while we are demanded to personally stand upright in the face of pour own pain; we should never ever do so on the behalf of someone else’s suffering.

While it may seem counterintuitive, this is my experience: it is always the mourner that comforts everyone else. While those unaffiliated to the tragedy rejects the situation and cry out in disbelief, it is always the “victims” that come to a calm acceptance that, yes, “we don’t know G-d’s ways.” And, while your father seems to maintain that this is everyone’s role after a tragedy, I believe it is only a role rightly assumed by the victims themselves.

So it is our own pain that we should see as good, and never the suffering of our neighbor.

As to your fathers comment that “I don't care if she hates me but I care if she hates Hashem” - an idea that is clearly at the core of your father’s response – it is an attitude I oppose most strongly.

G-d doesn’t need our defense. Some people care more about protecting G-d than advocating the cause of our people. Personally, I believe I should care much more about hatred between fellow Jews, than hatred of G-d. I don’t think your father is foreign to this concept. I would even go beyond that to say that, on a human level, hatred of G-d is usually warranted. But the point is this; as a nation, we are there for each other first. We ask G-d questions on our friends’ behalf before swallowing the pain and “understanding his ways.”

As for the accusation that I have no Yiraaas Shamayim (Fear of Heaven), indeed I have a long way to go. But if you read the entire piece, you will see that, while I address the instinct response, I end off with the strong acknowledgment that it is only G-d that we can turn to and seek comfort from. While my piece did cover a sort of inner evolution, I thought this closing point was very raw and clear (much like I felt it personally).

It is my most sincere prayer that such discussions will soon be rendered obsolete, with an end to suffering altogether.

My best,



Anonymous said...

Sadly, the father's response is a perfect example of the attitude that turns young people away from Yiddishkeit altogether. Disagree - yes. But some of that response is an attack and just the old "I'm older than you so I know better..." Maybe he cannot appreciate the fact that when a tragedy like the one you were addressing (and I did not know, or care, that you had any connection to anyone who was directly affected), ALL of us Jews feel the pain and we express ourselves in different ways WHILE REALIZING that Hashem rules the world.

You do not know pain on the same level as someone who has had a loss (and I really hope you and your family never do know such pain), but you know how to feel for others and are not afraid to voice your true feelings.

And your response was great as always, Mimi. If I had to respond to three of those lines in particular, my response would be unfit to print even on a pashkvilke in the men's mikveh dressing room on Purim morning :)))))))))))!

chava'le said...


Chana said...

I think what your friend's father was getting at with "I don't care if you hate me, but I care if you hate Hashem" is that yes, we can yell out and we can scream and we can say it's not fair... but at the end of the day, Hashem is our Father. We don't HATE our Father. If things aren't looked at with that awe of the A-lmightiness of Hashem, what would keep a person from just packing his bags and leaving? G-d did something I see as bad. Therefore I hate G-d. Therefore I'm getting the heck out of here. Who needs G-d?

Do you see where someone could go with this? I know that YOU ended your piece with belief in G-d. YOU will stick with G-d no matter what. But I understand that the father here is saying that to spread those feelings might be dangerous for others who are not so well-rooted. Yes, it's your blog - your feelings, but just keep in mind that the pen is very powerful. I think that's what he's trying to say.

shloime freundlich said...

but "the father"needs to read the rebbes talk of adar 9 1992 when he was upset at g-d for the rape and muder of Mrs Lapine may G-D avenge her blood we can ask .when Elie Wiesel was in Auschwitz he witeness for sevrel nights 3 great scholars of talmus,halakhah put G-D on trial for crimes aginst the end all voted g-d was gilty of crimes againts his pepole and mankind.after a few moments the head scholar looked to the heaven and said it is time for evening prayers .and the members of the tribunal davend marrive .we can ask and must we are human .but then come back to g-d and have him comfort us for he is with us in pain .(the rebbe shemot 5743)

Anonymous said...

I don't mean this to fuel the fire, but why and how is there a wrong or right to someone's private feelings?
I understand you have your private feelings in a place where the public can access them, or even written to the public, but either way, the public can choose to draw strength and comfort or opposite. If you don't like it, don't read it. Don't take anything from it.
I would understand if someone chose to suggest to be wary that there those out there that are weaker in their faith, and for them, not to voice ALL your feelings as they are.
But you shouldn't have to defend any theology behind your feelings. The answer you received from the father is not wrong and its not all right. It's just...out of place.

c said...

wow Mimi. these posts gave me a lot to think about.
i am in the same boat as you in that, thank G-d, i have never experienced real pain - in a way that has made me feel too inexperienced to respond to deep suffering the way you have.
on a personal level i can cry with another, empathize (sympathize?) to the best of my ability. listen to them speak and be so understanding, while knowing all the while that as much as i try to "relate", i cannot. to me it would be arrogant and insensitive to think i understand a pain that is not and never was mine. so what do i really know? and what can i really say? the quest in my faith is lifelong, i search and i learn, and i find such articles as yours quite thought-provoking.
the "who are you to say anything?" reaction is off-putting, and a basic of torah is to behave in "darkei noam". i don’t agree with it either.
one thing i do think, Mimi, and correct me if i'm mistaken, is that you post to share and would like others to share with you. and disagreeing is perfectly acceptable. (insulting isn’t.) you post very deep feelings to a personal yet public forum - because you want the discussion, no? and deep articles elicit strong responses.
thanks for all the sharing you do – and keep spreading your light :)

Anonymous said...

hi mimi,
i keep reading and re-reading your initial post .. and i cant for the life of me see what could be wrong with how you expressed your feelings towards G-d that day ...
I felt many of the same sentiments

we are told time and time again not just to ask from Hashem, but to demand..

To feel another jew's pain .. and to let Hashem know that "this golus stinks" shows that we understand that the source of everything in this world, pain and joy come from Him...

I agree with you 100%... we cannot possibly spew comforting statements on someone else's pain ..
we must be able to call out to, demand, and beg, for a better reality from the one who gives us everything ..

Anonymous said...

as someone who has felt intense pain and loss on a very personal level many times, I can attest to what Mimi has written has normal and ok feelings to have.
Throughout different stages of my yiddishkeit, I have reacted differently to the pain. But when I was at my highest points spiritually (i.e. more frum and learning more chassidus), thats when I turned to G-d and asked "Why now? Why me? Whats the purpose? How could you do this to me again???" But it was through those questions that I found the answers. If I hadn't questioned G-d, I would have never found the answers.
And let me tell you, there were times that I did not turn to G-d. Instead I denied his existence and found other sources of comfort.
Thank G-d now, that although I do have a lot of hardships still in my life, I can look to G-d as say "It hurts, but I know its coming from you, please help me get through this with my sanity intact so I can better serve you." Because I know it is only G-d who can get me through it.
Thank you Mimi for your uplifting (and real) words!

Q re: your response said...

" is always the mourner that comforts everyone else.... it is always the “victims” that come to a calm acceptance that, yes, “we don’t know G-d’s ways.” ...I believe it is only a role rightly assumed by the victims themselves."

Isn't that because they have nothing else to resort to?
They have n/o to cry out to. N/o was touched as deeply as they have been. This is the way they are comforted- by comforting others.

A mother said...

I fully comprehend the father's response. (Uh duh, you're a mother.)

I think it would be like if let's say a principle fired his 8th grade rebbi. He had excellent reason to do so but the reason was not revealed to anyone. The school was in an uproar for he was very well liked and he was actually a very good rebbi. He also had a wife and house full of children that he needed to feed and the situation looked terrible.
The other rebbis and faculty and parents made a big tumul. Vost heist??!! Hayitochen the principal can do such a malicious act.

Kumt a first grader (whose friend happens to be the son of the fired rebbi) and tells the principle "off". How everyone hates him etc..
And how could he do such an act.

Now, if I came over to this "pisher" (sorry Mimi, don't really mean to call you that) and told him what chutzpa he has to talk like that, and how immature of him etc.. he will not comprehend why... he is saying true things - others are saying it too, why can't he?
I will try to explain to him that if someone else has also "suffered" from this principle - another teacher or a neighbor - then okay, farshtei ich, they kind of have a "right" so to speak, but a first grader??!! Where is his Yiras Shomayim, where is his Kovod??

I think that was the point of the father - or so I see it at least.

Anonymous said...

:) I have a great response to that last comment but I will NOT comment here until you post something new! So there!

Anonymous said...

Mazal Tov to you!

Anonymous said...

OK you posted so I am keeping my part of the bargain :).

To a mother:

How do YOU know what that kid is feeling and why? For all you know, he has spent many Shabbosim with his friend's father and was looking so forward to having him in class. Maybe he has been at the house and knows very well that there is a special needs child in that house and now there will be real tzuris.

For all you know, his parents are so upset about the firing that they are moving out of the community because they are fed up with the games at Yeshiva Ktana Oholei Kefira and the other local choice is just as bad - and that means that his whole litte world of friends and classmates has been destroyed.

If that were my kid in that situation (where he really has a shychus to the situation), and the principal gave him a detention or whatever they're called these days (I did grades 2 - 10 in juvey and it was called solitary confinement and hard labor in my day :)))) without at least asking him to express his feelings when he calmed down, I would join the PTA and press for the removal of that unfeeling jerk.

The difference is that Hashem knows how we feel and decides when He wants to comfort us. This morning I was unable to service important clients because of a mysterious connection failure - and I went to shul to daven and learn only to find that someone had misappropriated my tefillin. I also cried out in anger - to Hashem because when I am the only one in a major city who is affected by a tech outage (and I use the service for my parnassa) and my tefillin are gone after 6 months in the same place, I know Who is responsible - and it is not the service provider or some jerk who took the best pair of tefillin he could get his hands on for a joy ride. And I omly hope that when it comes on, it turns out that a big job is waiting for me (or that whatever I lose turns out to have been unprofitable to begin with), and that when the tefillin are found, there is a good explanation for their departure (or that they are checked and turn out to have problems).