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    Pangs of real pain – Tishah B’Av

    Destruction of the Temple, Francesco Hayez, 1867

    The fast of Av marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples; Amos Oz adds a further dimension when he says in allegorical fashion, “The Holocaust was the destruction of the Third Temple”.

    All raise the same problem – not only “What happened?” but “How could it have happened?”

    If HaShem was the cause of the destruction, how can we call Him a good God? If it was an external enemy, why were we the victims? If our own sins caused the pain, can’t our merits save us?

    Rav Soloveitchik says this is not an academic question. The pain was real: cardiac, not conceptual.

    Seeking explanations is a hard ask for a people which rarely concerned itself with analytical theology. The Bible does not spell out the Jewish creed. Nor does the Midrash which never reaches a final position but endorses the rabbinic maxim, “What God does, He does for good” (Ber. 60b).

    Alright, but why the mystery? Our reason cries out to be used. We are angry, with God, with the enemy, with ourselves. We are angry at two millennia of tragedy, at the Holocaust.

    But is anger our only option? A medieval book says, “Anger begins with madness and ends with regret”.

    Okay, we are mad, but why the regret? Are we blaming ourselves too much?

    Can we posit a Problem of Good against the Problem of Evil? Can we see the good in our universe, and accentuate the positive? Even this is hard. Samuel Alexander says in “Space, Time and Deity”, that there is no clear-cut contrast, but a chaos.

    It would be easier if there were simple answers. But we oscillate. Today we are believers, tomorrow rebels and doubters. God is sometimes hard to find. We have days when He seems to play hide-and-seek. We yearn for Him to come out of hiding, ready to sort out the chaos, put to one side the blotches and bring together the blessings.

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