September 11, 2002

Dear God,

Questions. I have so many questions... especially lately.

I sometimes imagine getting an "open forum" with You, where I could ask You ANY QUESTIONS I WANT...and receive an immediate response. That would truly be the "ultimate" life experience. Now, don't get me wrong. Niagara Falls, witnessing childbirth, and sunrise in Jerusalem are mighty thrilling in their own right. But 25 minutes, "Fire away!" face-to-face with the Creator would probably be "It."

If I were to get 25 minutes to try to understand everything, nearly every one of my questions would begin with the same word -- "Why?"

I read the papers. And You know the story all too well. A nine-year old boy in Haifa watches his sister become crippled in a school bus explosion, and he wonders, "Why?" A 27-year-old widow, now dependent on psychotropic and sleep medications, wakes up every morning tormented and asking, "Why did he have to go to work so early that horrible Tuesday morning?" Too many orphans in Israel, whose parents were murdered in terrorist attacks, numb from shock, ask You, "Why?" Innocent citizens in civilized nations around the globe experience a kind of vague and persistent trepidation. They also turn to You and wonder, "Why?" and "What will happen next?"

We seem to be obsessed with the need to understand everything. We're driven to know. After all, You made us this way.

But lately I've been detecting a certain degree of arrogance when I require an explanation for everything. It becomes pretentious to expect that no experience or encounter be beyond my comprehension. I'm no different than most. When illness, premature death or failure of any kind strikes near me or my loved ones, I don't hesitate to ask, "Why?" And it doesn't take much, either. I've missed planes or busses by fractions and stood angrily at the bus stop and demanded an explanation from You!

And maybe there's nothing terribly wrong with that. After all, shouldn't I attempt to see Your hand in everything that happens to me?

But something doesn't sit right with me anymore. I think I need to reach a point...somewhere...where I accept that I am simply incapable of grasping every nuance of Your boundless inventions and intentions.

But that point is not easy to reach. I'm a bit uncomfortable to admit that my aptitude falls short of being limitless, and that some of life's mysteries will remain just that.

I often forget the magnitude of Your wisdom, power, and infinite supremacy. And that's dangerous. Because then I begin to accept only those things that I can understand. You know how it goes: "If it doesn't fit into my definition of rational thinking and purpose, I discard it." That's when my thoughts become preoccupied by the "Why?" question. That's when "faith" becomes a pariah.

It's confusing. In reality, You want me to question. You want me to understand and to ask, "Why?" Isn't that one of the signatures of Your People? And so I ask. But I'm not always privileged to be blessed with the insight I desire. Frequently I "just don't get it." And so I ask again...and again...and sometimes I'm still denied access to the Heavenly answer. I'm coming to realize that You have Your reasons. I must believe that. And that's when faith...and a dash of humility must kick in. It isn't easy.

And this is especially difficult when the incomprehensible is accompanied by pain -- sometimes a lot of pain, unbearable pain. The pain of parents burying children. The pain of Holocaust survivors replacing years of triumph with sudden tragedy. The pain of those who need so badly to cry, but have been drained of all their tears. That is when our need to make sense of the senseless becomes paramount.

You certainly know that recent world events have left all of us stunned, questioning, and frightened. Scores of leaders, authorities, and plain folk like me have beseeched You for the ability to comprehend unspeakable acts of global and personal catastrophe. "If only we could understand the reason, the plan, the ultimate purpose – then perhaps the pain could be ameliorated." We're all asking, "Why?"

I am sure that among the millions of prayers You'll be sifting through in the next week or two, many of them will begin with "Why?" But maybe the recent overload of wanton acts that totally defy reason should really be compelling me to accept my vast limitations of comprehending Your ways.

When a child asks his parent, "When?" he's stating his confidence that the time will definitely come.

So this year, I decided to omit the "Why?" to my list of questions. Perhaps my place is not to require an answer that I can appreciate. I'll leave that to Your Higher Judgment. Instead, I humbly substitute the word, "When?" When a child asks his parent, "When?" instead of, "Why?" he's stating his confidence...his belief that the time will definitely come. The only real question is, "When?"

And so, as the New Year begins, I wonder:

  • When will the sirens finally end?
  • When will we turn to You in complete and absolute confidence?
  • When will the world recognize its ever-growing prejudices?
  • When will our children go to sleep without fear?
  • When will we put aside our petty habits and differences?
  • When will we stop worshipping the holy dollar?
  • When will the time come that we can wake up without "needing" 9/11's?
  • When will the media recognize accomplishment more than destruction?
  • When will our heroes become truly worthy ones?
  • When will we learn to be happy, not critical; giving, not sarcastic?
  • When will the fashion, cosmetics, and entertainment industries retreat into the background of life's priorities?
  • When will our teachers get the salary and recognition we claim they deserve?
  • When will we remember Nietzsche's simplicity: "Life is not an argument"?
  • When will we stop asking, "Why?" as a prerequisite for acceptance?
  • When Moshiach comes, will we stop asking questions?
  • When?

    Dear God, I know you are near. I can feel it. I can touch it. Your children are crying. We may not need to know, "Why?" But we do need to know, "When?"

    Hopefully the answer will be, "Soon...very, very soon."