A Question With No AnswerJune 15, 2012 - 5:00 am
“You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” — Job 42:3
There are many different reactions to tragedy, but one response is universal — asking why. Job, like everyone else, tried to understand God’s ways. Why do bad thing happen to good people? Why do the wicked experience so much good?
While Job’s friends insisted that Job must have sinned, he knew – and we know from the text – that he hadn’t. Most of the book is dedicated to Job and his friends trying to answer the timeless question for which an answer has never been found.
Finally, God Himself appeared to Job and answers his question with another question: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:4). Translation: “Why in the world would you expect to understand My ways? You are finite, I am infinite! I am the creator, you are the creation. Can a painting understand the artist that painted it?” Job acknowledged his limited knowledge and said, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” And with these words, Job found comfort at long last.
It is natural and human to try to understand the world around us. But there are many times that we just can’t make sense of it. In our generation one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the ruthless murder of six million innocent people at the hands of the Nazis.
Rav Israel Meir Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, is a survivor of the Holocaust. In his recently published memoirs he writes:
“I am a believer — and I will remain so until my dying day . . . The question for which I have not found an answer remains the question of why. Why did it have to happen? Why was my brother Milek, may God avenge his death, torn from our mother to go to his death, while I was separated from her and lived? I will never know, but this will not diminish my faith . . .”
Rav Lau explains that when King Solomon declares that “ The Lord said that He would dwell in thick darkness” (1 Kings 8:12), he is saying that sometimes the Divine Presence rests within a domain that is hidden, concealed behind a screen of mystery. Sometimes we can’t understand. But that’s okay. Just because we don’t understand God doesn’t mean that we can’t have faith in Him. We trust that the Creator knows what He is doing. The masterpiece is being painted even if we can’t yet appreciate its beauty.
Comfort is not found in knowing all the answers. It is found in knowing that we don’t have to.