There are moments when I wonder how anyone could ever doubt the existence of God. When I watched each of my children arrive into this world, then held those little miracles in my arms, I knew without a doubt that God exists. When I watch individuals in the hospital, seemingly on the brink, recover and return to their families, I am in awe of God’s healing powers and how God can act through humankind in the form of doctors and nurses. When I contemplate the very existence of a modern State of Israel, after 2000 years of exile, I am reminded that God not only exists, but maintains His unique relationship with the Jewish people.
Yet, while I believe with perfect faith in God’s existence, I do wonder about the times when God chooses to be silent. This is true with regard to those who battle the sadness of infertility. This is true when I reflect on the suffering and murder of six million of our brothers and sisters during the Shoah. This is true when, as I do now, I mourn the loss of a friend’s child–taken from the world before he had the opportunity to really enjoy any of God’s beautiful creations.
In our Torah portion this week, Parashat Va-era, God commands Moses to go before Pharaoh and to declare to the Egyptian monarch, “Let my people go that they may serve Me!” But before that, God first sends Moses to the Israelites to prophecize their coming freedom. God commands Moses to tell the people that He has heard the moaning of the Israelites and is now choosing to bring them home to the Promised Land. Not surprisingly, the Israelites are doubtful of God’s proclamation through Moses. After all, God had been seemingly silent the centuries prior; why would God now, “all of a sudden,” choose to be active?
I don’t know why God is sometimes silent and sometimes not, or if the times when God feels silent to us He is actually acting in more subtle ways. I can’t blame the Israelites for doubting God’s existence in the same way that I cannot and do not blame Holocaust survivors for the same. But when I am challenged with the great tragedies of the world, I am reminded of a poem, written on cellar walls during the Second World War, by Jews hiding in Cologne, Germany:
I believe in the sun even when it isn’t shining.
I believe in love even when I feel it not.
I believe in God even when He is silent.
To all those who suffer greatly in this world, I pray that God choose now to end the Divine’s seeming silence.
Rebecca, Caleb and Ayal join me in wishing you Shabbat Shalom.
-Rabbi Aaron Starr