Apr 6, 2011

Reaction to Letter of Protest

I was recently told about a "Dear G-d" letter written by Rabbi Cardozo and I looked it up and found it here:

http://www.cardozoschool.org/show_article.asp?cat_id=1&cat_name=Jewish Thought and Philosophy&subcat_name=Man, God and the Torah&subcat_id=44&article_id=704&parent_id=1  

Rabbi Cardozo, as the website states, is a prominent lecturer and author .. a native of the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community of Holland who holds a doctorate in philosophy.  He received semicha from from the yeshiva in Gateshead Talmudic College and studied in Israel at the Institute for Higher Rabbinical Studies of Chief Rabbi Unterman and at the Mir Yeshiva.

In his letter of protest, he expresses his anguish over the massacre of the Fogel family "and the death of at least ten thousand human beings due to a huge earthquake and tsunami that YOU, and nobody else, caused."  Why didn't G-d prevent the terrorists from perpetrating their heinous deed, he wants to know, and why did G-d allow the Japanese to suffer such devastation?

He wondered why nobody else seemed to be agonizing as he was, over these tremendous losses, and was amazed that people still showed up at shul to talk to G-d.  He could not understand how people were not preoccupied with this religious crisis and wonders whether something is lacking in them or perhaps in himself.

Rabbi Cardozo continues to believe in G-d even as he ponders these questions.

I am impressed if this letter truly reflects his emotions.  However, I find two things disturbing.  One, he does not differentiate with a "l'havdil" or otherwise, between the murders of the Fogels, our brothers and sisters, and the loss of life and chaos in Japan.  When I raised this point in discussion, someone vehemently disagreed with me and asked why the rabbis did not declare a day of fasting for the Japanese.  I was taken aback by this sentiment and asked whether, in our history, in our Torah, there is such a precedent.  This point was not well taken.  Although Hashem's mercy is al kol maasav, and so should ours be, our natural Jewish reaction should be different for our fellow Jews than for other human beings. 

Second, Rabbi Cardozo's reaction is based on the assumption that the Japanese were entirely innocent victims of an explicable massive tragedy.  Although he concedes that we cannot understand G-d, he is still torn between his intellectual understanding that G-d has His reasons and his emotional reaction to human suffering.  My reaction, by way of contrast, was to wonder why Japan? Why, of all countries which are idol worshipping and transgress other of the Seven Noahide Laws, did G-d pick Japan for this utter ruination?

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