Hot & Cold

May 27, 2012 - 5:00 am

“The day is yours, and yours also the night;
   you established the sun and moon.
 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
   you made both summer and winter.” — Psalm 74:16-17

It’s almost instinctive to create a theology of “good news.” In other words, when we experience good times, we can imagine without great difficulty that God is responsible for them. Indeed, in popular culture, the phenomenon of the victorious athlete thanking God for his success has become commonplace.

But how often do we attribute our failures to the Divine Will? Of course, one hopes that most people in such circumstances would turn to God for assistance. But to what extent – if at all – do we internalize God’s presence in all areas of our lives, even the unpleasant ones?

It is with this question in mind that the psalmist teaches us the crucial lesson that God’s Will permeates our entire lives. To God belongs the day – the sunny, positive side of life – as well as the night – the dreary, downcast moments of existence. In the words of the biblical poet: “You made both summer and winter.”

The notion that God’s Will governs the very direction of human existence is so central to Jewish thought, that the rabbis of the Talmud enshrined it within Jewish law. Thus, while the rabbis record the text of a blessing on good tidings – “Blessed is the One Who is Good and Does Good” (in Hebrew, barukh ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv) – they also formulated a blessing to be recited upon reception of ill tidings – “Blessed is the True Judge” (in Hebrew, barukh dayyan ha-emet).

In fact, it is Jewish practice down to this very day to recite the blessing of the True Judge even upon hearing news that another person has died. In the words of the contemporary scholar, Rabbi Maurice Lamm, “The blessing over evil . . . is a sharp, eloquent statement by mourners that affirms that though death is life’s most evil aspect, it is the work of God’s judgment, and as such, it is ‘true,’ perfect, and unassailable.”

What a powerful, comforting message for all of us. Although we frequently feel alone in times of turmoil, we may draw strength from the truth articulated by the psalmist:  Our God – our Creator who fashioned us lovingly in His image – made both our summers and our winters.


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