Where Has God Been?

Posted by Rabbi Shohama Wiener |


There have been so many horrific shootings recently. Illness and death have continued to touch many of us. These days have indeed seemed dark, and some have asked, "Where has God been?"

Our tradition records that when the Prophet Elijah heard the voice of
God, Elijah experienced a great wind -- "but God was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake, but God was not in the
earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but God was not in the
fire.  And after the fire came a still, small voice" (1 Kings
19:11-12).  We learn that the wind, earthquake and fire sensitized
Elijah to heed the divine voice within.

As for Elijah, so for us. God is in the "still, small voice" that summons us to
compassion, helping, healing and wholeness.  

We still ask, where is God just before a hurricane, before shots ring
out?  Where was God for 27 Connecticut innocents who were about to die
in an elementary school?  Our tradition offers many teachings for all
of us who wrestle with these wrenching questions.  One is that
humanity, created only a little lower than the angels (Psalms 8:5), is
created with free will.  To enable humanity's free will, God must
restrain God's self to make room for us.  This space for free will
makes us possible, calling us to emulate divinity with compassion and
acts of lovingkindness -- but it also makes space for tragedy.  When
tragedy strikes, God is not absent: tradition teaches that God weeps
with us and holds all who suffer b'tzror ha'chayim -- in the bonds of
eternal life (1 Samuel 25:29).  As importantly, God invites all of us
to partner with divinity, to affirm life and extend hands of healing
and support -- to uplift the fallen sparks and help repair the world.

These times aren't easy, and answers to these questions aren't easy,
either.  We wrestle with heartache and loss, wishing that our world
were more perfect, more safe and more full of love.  This wrestle is
what Israel is named for -- Yisrael, one who wrestles with God
(Genesis 32:28) -- and our wrestle itself is holy.

May our Godwrestles call us to action, holiness and wholeness.  May we
embrace each other with love and compassion, and act to ease the
suffering of others who need our helping hands.  And may we remember
that as these winter days lengthen, the cold will surely ease into
spring.

Rabbi Shohama Wiener, with David Markus and Eva Sax-Bolder