Tuesday, August 03, 2004

An example of what I have in mind: A discussion of the Book of Job

I hope to have serious discussions on Jewish topics on my blog. By way of example, I'm posting a copy of an e-mail that I sent a few years ago, along with replies from some friends (who will remain anonymous). Since we just observed Tisha B'Av, and the Book of Job/Iyov is considered permissible reading for that day, I think this is appropriate.

Subject: So call me an apikoras [heretic]--
Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 6:36 PM

I *hate* the Book of Job! I read it as part of USCJ's Perek Yomi, and I didn't like it any better this time than I liked it the first time. So God's an egocentric who thinks nothing of beating the stuffing out of Job just to show off to Satan. Job, for his part, spends most of the book protesting his innocence, only to wimp out when finally given an opportunity to defend himself to God Godself. God basically thumbs his nose at Job's suffering. I find the whole story insufferable. The only thing I get from Iyov is that God's omnipotent and can do whatever God jolly well pleases. Whatever happened to "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly"?

Responses requested.

Response #1:

What's the talmud portion about the recipe for incense? They list an ingredient which has an unpleasant aroma yet must be included on pain of death.

So it is with the book of Job. One of the eternal questions is always "What about when bad things happen to good people?" The answer is, unfortunately, not a lot. Gather round, offer support and be prepared that the sufferer my reject your offer out of the depths of their pain.

Among the blessings of the gift of the Torah is that it gives us the unpleasant book of Job to wrestle with before the inevitable intrusion of those circumstances into our own lives. It's probably as much preparation as you could reasonably expect. It also functions as a reality check against those passages (usually in tillim) "God protects those who revere Him so that none of their bones are broken." (not exact quote) To remind one that that is a hope; not a guarantee. It's also a great paradigm of what happens in the corridors of power. An otherwise benevolent ruler/leader can be induced to torture a faithful subject/employee/dependent by the nagging question put into "The Accuser's" mouth in this version. "Of course he's faithful. You pay him handsomely for it. He's not faithful because he's faithful; but on account of the payola!" Lastly, it punctures all those Calvinist types who argue that the "elect" can be recognized by their success in this world. Or those who say "Believe with me and you will be given "The" great reward." There are no guarantees. In the final analysis God will do what God will do. Our tradition says; your best shot is to behave justly, prepare yourselves and get over it.

Response #2:

Whatever happened to "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly"?

Don't you think that your reaction, asking that question, is exactly the point of the story?

Response #3:

The real question to me is why it was included in the Bible at all, since it's so thoroughly at odds theologically with the rest of it.


Blogger Talmida said...

I found your blog today through your comments at Renegade Rebbetzin. You have a great voice and I'll be adding you to my daily reading! I thought I'd let you know I've linked to this entry at my blog.

Tue Oct 05, 11:56:00 AM 2004  

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