“Where is G-d ?” They Ask

All it takes is a terrible disaster such as the one in Asia for the atheists to come crawling out of the cracks. After all, “how can a kind and merciful G-d cause such havoc, tragedy, and destruction,” they ask? It just doesn’t make sense!

While Moshe Rabbeinu fully believed in Hashem’s system of justice, he still wanted to understand it, and therefore asked, “Show me your ways?” When he was shown the terrible torture Rabbi Akiva would have to go through, he was dumfounded, and asked, “Is this the Torah and this is its reward?” Hashem told him to be silent. Man can obviously not fully comprehend His ways.

Throughout the Pesach Haggadah we refer to Hashem as “Makom,” which means “Place,” and never by any of his other holy Names. Also, when we console a mourner we say “Ha’Makom…” While Hashem is called Makom because He fills all of space, we rarely refer to Him by this Name, so why here?

When Avrohom was looking for the place where he was to sacrifice his son, the Torah says that he saw the “Place” from afar. Rashi says that he saw a cloud upon the mountain and realized that this was the place to which he should go. The black cloud was a sign of G-d’s Presence. Yet we rarely find Hashem referred to in this manner. Why of all His many Names was He called Mokom?

When Hashem commanded Avrohom to offer his one and only son as a sacrifice, it contradicted everything Hashem Himself had promised him. How does G-d command that one murder his own child? How does G-d contradict Himself? He had clearly promised to make Yitzchok into a large nation. Avrohom’s entire belief system was being put to the test. Could he continue to believe in a G-d who is so brutal and shows no sense of justice? What kind of G-d is He?

Yet, despite all the difficulties, Avrohom asked no questions and followed Hashem’s commandment, fully realizing that man could not understand G-d’s ways. To him the concept of G-d was that of “Makom” which means place. While he could not actually see G-d, he believed that G-d was here and in fact He was everywhere. There is no place in the entire universe that G-d cannot be found. “Les asar ponui minei.” He is everywhere.

This belief was so strong that even before Hashem had ever revealed Himself to him or spoken to him, Avrohom was willing to allow himself to be thrown into a fire rather then serve idols. His miraculous survival proved to all that he was right. His strong belief in Hashem was confirmed again when Hashem Himself appeared to him and told him to go to a far off land which would eventually be given to him. While it may have sounded strange thatHashem had not given him more precise directions, he didn’t ask any questions and went as he was told. He was sure that G-d had His reasons for not giving him exact instructions, and realized that it wasn’t for man to question Him. In fact, he was ready to listen to whatever Hashem told him even if it seemed to defy logic. Avrohom realized that man couldn’t understand any of Hashem’s middos (referred to as His attributes which His many other Names represent), and he must follow what he was being told despite the fact that it was beyond his understanding. Hashem to him was on the level of ‘Makom,” He existed. He was here. He was everywhere. While one can’t see Him nor understand His ways, nevertheless one must obey His every command. His presence is always hidden in a dark cloud, as when Moshe went into Har Sinai. He went into the “arofel,” which means pitch black. This signifies that His ways are concealed from us.

While the many Names of G-d refer to His many attributes, according to the way we perceive Him, the Name “Makom” doesn’t describe Him as Merciful or by any of His other attributes. All it means is that He is everywhere. In fact, we find that even the heavenly angels themselves ask “ayeh mekom kevodo l’haaritzo?” – where is His holy place to praise Him? We also pray that “mimkomcha Malkeinu sofia… – that He reveal Himself and rule over us from His place.” Avrohom taught us that we must do whatever Hashem commands, even if we do not understand the reason for His commandments. After all, if we truly believe that He is G-d, then how dare we question His wisdom? By definition, His wisdom is infinitely beyond ours, so our lack of understanding does not diminish Him. It does not even diminish us, because we are human and He is Divine.

And so when Hashem told him that his children would go into exile and suffer in a strange land, he accepted the decree without question. Hashem saw this as a great righteousness on his part. (“Va,yach’shevehu lo l’tzdaka.” )

When Hashem offered to give us the Torah, we did not ask what it demanded of us. We simply replied that “we were ready to do and to listen.” We may never know His reasons, but we obey, because we have full faith in Him and we know that He knows best and His commandments are in our best interest, because He is our Father and loves us.

Even when seemingly bad things happen to man and we don’t understand why, we nevertheless faithfully accept G-d’s judgment as Avrohom did.. Perhaps this is why we comfort a mourner with the expression of “Hamakomyenachem…” When we pray for those in trouble we say “Hamakom yeracheim a’layhem, voyotziem…” We pray that Hashem Who is everywhere, come to their rescue, because a real G-d is One we must follow blindly as Avrohom did. If we think we know better or that we may question Him, then our belief in G-d is not worth much.

We begin the Haggada with “boruch Ha’Makom, boruch Hu” because while we may not know the reason for being exiled to Mitzrayim, we are sure that Hashem did it for our own good. On the night of Pesach we encourage our children to ask questions, yet, there is one question that doesn’t appear in the Haggadah. Nowhere do we ask why we were put into exile and had to suffer so much. We may not be able to comprehend whyHashem made us suffer through a golus Mitzrayim, but we have faith that it was for our benefit. The proof is that it led to Kabolas HaTorah.

So, too, when disaster strikes, we must never lose faith in Hashem or dare question His ways even when great tragedy may chas v”shalom strike. Even in the darkest hours of the Holocaust, devout Jews had no questions. We must remain as silent as Aron Ha’kohen, when his two holy sons were struck by a heavenly fire. “Va’yidom Aaron” – “Aaron remained silent.”

We must always remember that “Imo onochi b’tzoro.” Even in this dark, bitter golus night, Hashem is with us. The Shchina is with us in golus at all times. We may not see Him, but we know that He is here even when He hides Himself from us.

We understand Hashem only on the simple level of “Makom.” This pure faith has kept us going throughout the long bitter golus. Let’s hope that soon we will all be able to declare “odcha Hashem ki onafta be.” May we meritMashiach soon in our days and may He reveal Himself to us in all His great glory.