Due to some crossed wires behind the scenes at Hirhurim, we have a second review of a book that was discussed here: link.
Guest post by Shmuel Sofer
Where’s My Miracle?
By Rabbi Morey Schwartz
Published by Geffen Publishing
Rabbi Morey Schwartz in his authorial debut has chosen to tackle one of the most vexing philosophic/hashkafic problems facing the believing Jew. His book “Where’s My Miracle?” looks at the age old question of “Tzadik V’Ra Lo” (as well as the converse “Rasha v’Tov Lo) ie why is it that the righteous suffer and the wicked seem to prosper? Rabbi Schwartz attempts to glean from Jewish Tradition an approach if not an answer to this dilemma.
Rabbi Schwartz comes to the task with much personal experience. At the relatively young age of twenty he found himself bereft of both his parents. This book is the culmination of his personal search for an answer. Along the way Rabbi Schwartz earned his degree in psychology and later entered the rabbinate, as a pulpit rabbi and more recently as an educator in Israel after having made aliya. He recounts several personal experiences with suffering and tragedy in his personal life, his professional career and during his residence in Israel during the years of the Intifada. Likewise, he recounts episodes of human tragedy which effected others with whom he shared no connection other than a common humanity. As a rabbi he had the task of attempting to comfort bereaved families and trying to make sense of their personal tragedies, an admittedly impossible task.
The book looks at tragedy and suffering through the eyes of chazal, as they interpreted various texts, and as they personally experienced various tragedies or tried to help others deal with their own suffering. Along the way, he analyzes issues of theodicy, “natural disasters”, “man on man” evil and violence and man made disasters.
Rabbi Schwartz is acutely aware that the most prevalent approach found in the classroom and that often verbalized by clergy and lay people relates to suffering as a manifestation of Divine Providence. Rabbi Schwartz is clearly uncomfortable with this approach for several reasons that he lists throughout his book. He therefore has culled through numerous biblical, Talmudic and midrashic texts to find what he feels are alternate approaches. Citing traditional and contemporary interpretations as well as offering some creative interpretations of his own R Schwartz argues that there is no singular Jewish approach to suffering but rather several alternatives that can be derived from the sources. His approach and reading of the sources while often sensible, at times stretches credulity. In the end he generally prefers to “leave God out of it” which I find is a bit strange for a rabbi to do. He himself recognizes that some may argue that his approach to the issues and some of the texts may border on the heretical, but he clearly wants and is searching for a way to deal with a most difficult problem from within our mesorah.
In his concluding chapter, R Schwartz acknowledges that when faced with seemingly disparate approaches and contradictory texts there are two ways to approach the task. One approach is to attempt reconciliation and resolution. Another, one he prefers, is to accept the texts and conflicts at face value and argue that there is no singular approach, rather they are reflective of various acceptable approaches that may be appropriate under varying circumstances.
This is as uncomfortable a book to read as one would expect it to be. Filled with horrific tragedies, the reader is likely to be bothered by the same questions that nagged at Rabbi Schwartz. While he proposes his own approach, Rabbi Schwartz recognizes that it too is unlikely to comfort the victim of a tragedy and the others caught up in its wake. Then again who could really expect an answer? Tradition tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu was so bothered by this phenomenon that he asked G-d Himself for an explanation but was not granted a full and clear answer. The best he could hope for was to see God’s “back” and try to make sense and interpret what R Ahron Soloveichik z”l referred to as the “footsteps of God as they march through the sands of time.”