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    Shouting at God – Va’era

    pray daven tefillah salvation shamayimThe sages believed that God and Moses knew each other well.

    God allowed Moses to see things that were denied to other people; Moses spoke to God in terms that amaze us.

    In this sidra Moses says what other people shrank from saying, not only then but at many points in history.

    Pointing a finger of accusation at the Almighty, Moses said, “Lord, why have You done evil to this people? Why have You sent me? You have not saved Your people at all!” (Ex. 5:22-23).

    There is a whole history of Jewish confrontations with God, not least because of the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel‘s writings are an example.

    When a Holocaust survivor colleague of mine suffered yet another tragedy, he said, “In my town they used to say, ‘If God lived in my street I would break all His windows!’”

    Moses probably uttered the most searing accusation of all.

    How did God reply? According to the Talmud (Sanh. 100a), God told him, “Ask the patriarchs why they did not question Me even when they suffered setbacks.”

    Moses presumably responded, “What they suffered was personal; what I am doing is speaking for the people of Israel!”

    In the Yalkut Shim’oni (B’ha’alot’cha 11), the rabbis say, “When the Holy One, Blessed be He, realised that Moses echoed the sorrow of the whole people of Israel, He reversed His position and treated him with mercy”.

    In a Talmudic passage about the Oven of Achnai (the details don’t concern us here), God says, “Nitz’chuni banai! My children have defeated Me!” (B.M. 59b)

    A Christian chaplain once asked me whether a Jew is permitted to shout at God. The answer I gave was, “Look at Moses!”

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