BET MIDRASH VIRTUALI
of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel



HASHKAFAH STUDY GROUP

Studies in Jewish religious ideology in the climate of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism
Originally published: May 25th 2005 / Iyyar 16th 5763



Bet Midrash Virtuali

A Masorti (Conservative) Theology
by
Rabbi Simchah Roth
Herzliyya, Israel

I  N  T  R  O  D  U  C  T  O  R  Y    N  O  T  I  C  E 


This series of essays does not claim to be an "official" theology of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism. It is one rabbi's personal viewpoint, and this should always be borne in mind by the reader. Nevertheless, I do hope that even those points with which the reader might disagree will afford him or her an opportunity for thought and evaluation.


Part 5:
Theodicy
One of the basic teachings that we derive from the first chapter of the book of Genesis [1:31] is that the universe in which we live is basically 'good'. Sometimes it may seem that the universe (or at least our own world) is saturated with badness, but after careful reflection it will become apparent that this is not the case. In his book, The Guide for the Perplexed [3:12], Rambam deals with this question. But first we must define our terms: what do we mean by the term "bad"? When we remove all cant and posturing it should be obvious to any thinking person that "bad" or "evil" is what we don't like or don't want. Murder is bad, people being deformed is bad, earthquakes are bad, tsunamis are bad. Ultimately, what causes suffering is bad or evil. In other words, badness and evil are subjective, because, putting it bluntly, it is what we don't want. Rambam [Guide for the Perplexed 3:12] writes as follows:

Every fool imagines that everything exists just for him, as if nothing is in existence except him. If something happens to him that he doesn't want to happen he decides that the whole universe is full of badness.

It is, of course, absurd for us to assume that just because something is inconvenient for us or causes us pain and suffering it is evil and wrong. Our great distinguishing mark is our self-consciousness; but it is also our great tragedy. Not only are we aware that we suffer, but we want to know why. We do not accept suffering as part of the natural order of things - because we don't like it and don't want it. In our presumed omniscience, we think that it should not be.

Rambam writes that there are three categories of "bad" into which we can separate all human experience, and we can still accept his categories as valid. Firstly, there are bad things "that flesh is heir to" [William Shakespeare, Hamlet 3:1] through being existent. When nature goes awry this is not an evil - unless we view the whole universe as being centered upon ourselves alone, which is patently absurd. When we kill an ant by treading on it because we didn't see it, that does not mean that we are evil: it is an inevitable part of being, the way of nature. When the leaf falls from the tree and dies it is a part of the natural course of things, it is a part of being. We view suffering in general and death in particular as an evil because we don't want it. But our non-preferences are not sufficient warrant for declaring something to be evil. We must learn to accept that we are within the universe: a part of nature, not apart from it. If God is a power that permeates the whole universe, if "the heavens themselves declare the glory of God and the cosmos proclaims itself to be God's handiwork" [Psalm 19:2], then we must recognize that we are a part of that immensity and subject to its rules and regulations - what we now know as the laws of physics, biology, chemistry, genetics, and so forth. We are not observing the laws of nature from the outside; we are a part of them, and they are acting upon us and in us even as we observe them. That is part of God's omnipresence and immanence.

When the human race starts to mature into God's universe as it is, we will begin to see our own reactions differently. We are amused when a tiny tot falls and hurts itself on the leg of the table and vents its frustration at what happened by hitting the table and declaring with pathos "naughty table!" We are amused because we know that neither the child nor the table are "naughty": it was the collision that was "naughty". Please note very carefully that I am not relating at all to the child's suffering: of course it hurts, of course the babe will cry, of course he needs comfort and reassurance. All I am saying is that he is mistaken when he makes the innocent table to be the evil villain that has caused his suffering. Similarly, when human beings suffer excruciatingly at the hands of nature, we may not accuse God of evil. When people die in an earthquake, when people are overwhelmed by a tsunami, when our children are born deformed or our old folk die of geriatric diseases - all this causes us immense suffering: we hurt, we feel the pain, we experience the heartache - because we are human beings. But we should not view these things as evils or wrongs. God has no more wronged us than He has wronged the leaf that falls from the tree or the ant that is trodden underfoot. In such circumstances it hurts, we weep, and we offer sympathy, comfort and reassurance. But we may not raise an accusing finger at an innocent God.

We now come to Rambam's second category of badness. (Actually it is his third, but it suits my purposes here to switch the order around; it makes no difference to his thesis or to mine.) These are bad things that each and every one of us does to himself. Here we are on much firmer ground, for the logic of the argument is probably stronger than the emotion. A man smokes thirty cigarettes a day for thirty years and then has the colossal effrontery to accuse God of gross injustice when his lungs finally succumb to cancer. For twenty years a woman eats a thousand calories a day more than she needs and then accuses God of her gross deformity and her clogged arteries. A youngster runs headlong into a main thoroughfare after an errant ball without checking the traffic and is mown down by a truck whose driver had no chance: and the child's parents do not know whom to accuse more in their frustration at the thought that their child will be a cripple for the rest of her life - the driver of the truck or God "who shouldn't have let it happen!" (We shall return later to this question of God's responsibility for our actions.) I need write no more on this category.

The third category of badness is, of course, the evil that human beings do to each other. We murder, we steal, we corrupt; we band together to wage war; we steal each other's oxygen, we pass on deadly diseases when we could refrain from doing so ... There is no end to the catalogue of man's inhumanity to man, and this truly deserves the epithet 'evil'. As the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, put it:

Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!

Surely, the grossest example of this kind of evil known to us thus far is the Holocaust. We shall be discussing this in detail just a little further on. Before we do so, let me point out that it is just as childish to berate God for our own iniquities as it is to accuse the leg of the table of evil for our collision with it. There is no real difference between "naughty table!" and "naughty God!" We must grow up theologically. God is not the universal policeman, God is not the Crime Prevention Officer of the universe, whose full-time employment should be preventing the rest of the universe from causing hurts to little us. That is our job, at least as far as humans are concerned. The mitzvot are addressed to us, not to God. "He has told you, O man, what is good" [Micah 6:8] ... just get on with it and do it properly! While God is not the universe's CPO, the mitzvot certainly should be for us the universal deterrent.

Although we have tried to demonstrate in an earlier essay in this series that our religious and moral behaviour should not be based upon a perceived connection between it and our personal and collective fates, nevertheless many Jews continue to anguish mentally over this matter, and of them many have even relinquished a Torah-based life-style because they could not find a satisfactory answer. "Why do the righteous suffer?" "Why is there evil in the world?" Such are the questions that good folk ask themselves. Since the Holocaust such questions have taken on a new tone of desperation mingled with challenge. The Jewish people - and many who are not Jews! - ask very pertinent questions. The questions that we ask rise up as far as the highest heavens and touch the very Throne of Glory itself, and they descend also into the deepest reaches of the terrible abyss. A numbed and bewildered people screams out its painful query: How could all this happen to us? We have been taught that God created a world that was good: how come that there is evil in God's good world? We have learned that God's attributes are mercy and kindness and truth: how do such attributes square with the terrible reality of the Holocaust?

The prophet Jeremiah [12:1] asks: Why do the wicked prosper? - and he did not get a clear and satisfactory answer. The book of Job is a long, dramatic presentation of one basic question: Job asks 'why am I suffering?'; towards the end of the book God appears and gives him an answer: 'because'!

It is the enormity of the Holocaust that exposes the enormity of the question. A people, one of the most cultured and civilized that humanity has ever known, rises up to stream unthinkingly and with boundless enthusiasm after a ridiculous and dangerous lunatic, who bears a surprising resemblance to a popular film-star comedian, and who has managed to surround himself with a relatively small group of desperate n'ere-do-wells. And this people then assists in the killing, murder, slaughter and butchery of six million members of another people for no good reason at all except that that other people happened to be Jewish!

Six million of our people, two thirds of our people in Europe, one third of our people in the world, six million - oldsters and youngsters, men and women, youths and children, infants and babes in arms - were systematically butchered and done to death by the people who gave the world Beethoven and Goethe. When our remote descendants learn of this through archaeological excavations, they will doubtless think that they are reading legends and cock-and-bull stories. For - so they will think - everyone knows that human beings are not capable of butchering each other to death with such machine-like precision in such enormous numbers. Maybe six people were killed, maybe sixty, possibly six hundred - but not six million! Hardly forty-five years had passed after the Holocaust and an enlightened state such as France had to enact a law punishing anyone who claims that the Holocaust never took place! And on the sixtieth anniversary of VE Day (8th May 2005) Neo-Nazi thugs could be seen demonstrating their pernicious philosophy in the streets of Berlin. If that is the case after fifty years, after sixty years, what will happen in another millennium?

Only a few decades ago the most cultured and civilized people on earth created the round-up apparatus, organized the transports, conceived the concentration camps, built the extermination camps and operated the gas chambers with the cold-blooded intention of murdering every single Jew that they could possibly lay their hands on, and subsequently to burn their bodies in crematoria as a burnt offering on the altar of Nazi bestiality. None of this just happened: it was planned, organized and executed with ruthless efficiency. And a numbed and bewildered people screams out its painful query: How could all this have happened to us?

As a teacher and as a rabbi I have had to study the answers suggested over the past six decades. Some have suggested that the Jews were really responsible for what happened to them; they deserved God's righteous anger and punishment, for it was in Europe that the Jews had first forsaken their ancestral heritage, accepted western mores and culture and almost forgotten their Jewishness. Another line of approach has been that the Holocaust was a good thing in the end, for out of the ashes of the crematoria, phoenix-like, the Jewish people were resurrected as the State of Israel. The State of Israel would not have been possible, they claim, had it not been for the Holocaust. I find both these lines of approach dubious and cheap. Even if we accept that the Jews of Europe did some wrong or other, what measure of divine justice and mercy can possibly weigh in the one scale such a misdemeanour and in the other the gassing and incineration of six million Jewish souls? And as for the despicable notion that the Holocaust was but a prelude to the swelling theme of the creation of the State of Israel - such rubbish should, in my opinion, be greeted with a resounding silence.

I think that what is wrong with these suggested theological solutions, and others like them, is that they attempt to "justify the ways of God to man" [John Milton, Paradise Lost 1:10]. Which means at rock bottom that they think that God has a case to answer, that God is - as it were - the accused party which must be defended. I believe that God is above all such petty thoughts - as high as Heaven is above the Earth. To my mind these theologians are trapped in a theological misconception. They assume that everything that happens here on Earth is with divine approval. I do not know from whence such an idea comes to them, for our sources state the opposite quite clearly:

Everything is in the power of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven [Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 33b].

According to Jewish teaching God is omnipotent, but divine omnipotence is limited in one matter: man has the ability to disobey the divine command. Man is different from all the other animals in that he can decide how he will behave. Each and every one of us has complete freedom to choose what he will do and what he will not do - and God does not interfere. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses exhorts the people of Israel thus:

I call Heaven and Earth to witness this day that I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; do you choose life [Deuteronomy 30:19].

This means that we have the ability to choose as we please. Man could have been a robot that can only act according to divine behest - a programmed computer. But we were not created thus. We are possessed of complete freedom of choice: should we so choose we can be the greatest of saints and be of supreme benefit to mankind; but should we so choose we can also be the greatest of evildoers and bring untold suffering upon our fellow men. The choice is ours: "I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; do choose life". Our choice is absolutely free. Just as a person can freely choose to steal a single coin from his neighbour, so he can freely choose to utilize chemical weapons, biological weapons or nuclear weapons. God does not prevent us acting upon our free choice.

Certainly there will be those who will object to the contention that God does not interfere with man's moral choices. They will claim that it has no biblical basis. Indeed, they will claim, the Torah says the opposite! So many times in the story of the Exodus the Torah tells us that God 'hardened Pharaoh's heart': this means that God would not let Pharaoh relent and let the Israelites go. A good example of this is given in Exodus 10:1-2.

Then God said to Moses: "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, so that I might display these My signs among them, and so that you may recount in the hearing of your sons and of your sons' sons how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them - in order that you may know that I am God."

In his magnum opus, Mishneh Torah [Repentance 6:3], Rambam addresses this issue most succinctly. Briefly, Rambam says that in normal circumstances God does not interfere with the choices of an individual, even if those choices may have evil consequences for untold numbers of other human beings. To do that would destroy the essential nature of freedom of moral choice, which is the quintessential difference between man and the rest of the animal world. When the lion tears its prey to death it is not being evil: it is behaving according to its natural instincts and can do no different. When a human being murders another human being they are not doing something natural: they can act otherwise if they so choose. They have made a moral choice.

If man is responsible for his actions then he is responsible for his actions. However, says Rambam, God does impact upon a person's moral choosing in a certain kind of case. Many times we find our sages telling us that nothing can bar the way to sincere repentance. What that means is that if a person has done bad things they will be forgiven if they sincerely repent of their deeds. But such a teaching can, in certain exceptional circumstances, produce a result whose morality is painfully questionable. Let us go back to a certain date: the date is April 30th 1945. We are in the Fuhrer's bunker in Berlin. Adolph Hitler is about to commit suicide. He holds his pistol to his mouth and is about to pull the trigger. A split second before he does so his heart is filled with immeasurable remorse at all the suffering he has brought upon the world. His heart cries out to God that he truly repents of the enormous evil that he has done and caused to be done during his lifetime. And then he pulls the trigger.

According to the teaching of the sages God must forgive him, for "nothing can bar the way to sincere repentance". But the very idea that all of Hitler's bad deeds be forgiven him and he be admitted into eternal bliss is repugnant in the extreme to our moral sensibilities. At such a thought our very souls would cry out to God the same challenge that Abraham issued [Genesis 18:25] when he questioned God's justice: "Shall not the Judge of all the Earth act justly?!"

After this illustration we can now return to Rambam's explanation of God hardening Pharaoh's heart. There comes a point when a person's wickedness goes beyond the bounds from which our understanding of divine justice may accept repentance. In other words, one can reach a stage of such wickedness and evil that from that moment the path to repentance is barred. God does not interfere with that person's moral choice, but God can and does 'harden his heart'. That is to say that when that point arrives God says concerning this evildoer: "You have made your evil choice. From this moment you will tread the path you have freely and wickedly chosen until you wreak your own destruction."

In 1947 Aaron Barth became the general manager of the Anglo-Palestine Bank (the forerunner of the modern Bank Leumi). But his part in this essay stems not from his being a banker but from his perspicacious contribution to modern Jewish religious philosophy. I recall reading in one of his books, "The Modern Jew Faces Eternal Problems", of a letter he wrote from Eretz-Israel on the day the news broke that Adolph Hitler had declared war on the USSR, June 22nd 1941.

On the day Hitler attacked Russia I wrote to my children: "You have before you a living interpretation of the verse 'And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh.' No one can say when this tyrant's end will come, but it is clear that this act of madness is the beginning of his end. Logic should have told him that he must continue his war against the West until he gains complete victory there; then he could throw all his strength against the East. But he is carried along in the direction he has set himself and cannot hold himself back. He does not believe that there are wiser and more understanding men. He does not believe that there is a God in the world. But here the Lord hardened his heart. And he will surely fall..."

Indeed, Hitler had not yet won his war against Britain and he rashly opened up a second front! It was inexplicable madness. Basing himself on the teaching of Rambam Aron Barth was able in June 1941 to foresee what would happen in Berlin on 30th April 1945, because Rambam's teaching explains the etiology of that act of megalomanic madness. The declaration of war against Russia was the first step in Hitler's inevitable journey to his own destruction.

So it is that each man freely chooses his wicked path, and every other man freely chooses to cooperate in the wrongdoing or to oppose it. Thus, I find the question that people used to ask about the Holocaust quite childish. The real question is not "Where was God during the Holocaust?"; the real question is "Where was man during the Holocaust?" Trying to put the blame for the Holocaust on God is rather like an infant who has done wrong fractiously crying that it's all Daddy's fault! And just as a parent must quietly ask "Did Daddy do this or did you do this?" so must man be prepared to take the blame for his greatest failure since the creation of the world.

I repeat: the real question is not "Where was God during the Holocaust?"; it is "Where was man during the Holocaust?" The very first murderer, Cain, asked his famous question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" and was told in no uncertain terms that every man is indeed his brother's keeper! "Your brother's blood is crying out to Me from the ground" [Genesis 4:9]. Decent Germans watched and did nothing; decent Germans knew and remained silent. Governments, too, watched and did nothing; knew and remained silent. The whole world watched and did nothing; the whole world knew and remained silent. We have been told by the English philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-1797) that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." It should be enough that the basic rights of one man be violated for the whole world to stand up and defend him, for we are all descendents of Adam. The Mishnah [Sanhedrin 4:5] tells us:

Therefore Adam was created alone, to teach that anyone who destroys but one human life it is as if he had destroyed the whole world of humanity ... for God has created all men in the image of Adam.

That is what the prophet Malachi [2:10] means when he says,

Do we not all have one Father, did not one God create us all?

In this day of nuclear energy the terrible atrocities of the Holocaust are a warning, and the piteous victims of Nazi brutality are the whole of mankind in miniature. By exercising our free choice, each and every one of us can steal a penny, take one life, take two, take a dozen lives, a hundred, a thousand, a million, six million, sixty million. By the very nature of things God does not interfere. Only man can interfere, for the biblical recipe is in our hands. Either we stand up and fight evil or we acquiesce and become a part of it.

Everything is in the power of heaven, except the fear of Heaven.

I call Heaven and Earth to witness this day that I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; do choose life.

When the first murderer, Cain, brutally took the life of his brother, God did not prevent the murder; God warned the miscreant [Genesis 4:7] that the urge to "sin crouches at the door and wants to master you: it is you who must master it" - you, not God.

I was extremely moved when many years ago I read in the press of the visit to Yad Vashem made by the players of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on tour here. (For many years the orchestra was persona non grata in Israel because its musical director, Herbert von Karajan, had been an active member of the Nazi party.) Let me quote to you from the report [Jerusalem Post, April 1990].

Some of the orchestra members were in tears by the end of the Kristallnacht exhibit, others collapsed around the pictures of starving ghetto children and of naked women being shot. One bespectacled musician stood for a few minutes clutching her friend for support in front of a picture of a pile of glasses removed from the dead camp inmates. 'How could it happen?' she muttered repeatedly, 'How did we let this happen?' 'I can't understand it. I don't feel my parents did this. I feel mankind did this and therefore I fear it could happen again,' said oboist Hansjeorg Schekenberger, 42. 'We need to see memorials like this to ensure that it doesn't happen.' Cellist Alexander Wedow needed time to collect himself ... 'Here I realize I was fortunate to have been a child during the war. My parents weren't so lucky. I don't know that I wouldn't have cooperated with the Nazis. No one knows. Such terrible characteristics exist in man, it is difficult to say what an individual would have done.'

I think that these are very brave and true words. There is no people on Earth that can claim that they are immune from this disease. Not the Americans after Vietnam and Abu Ghraib, not the British after Ireland... But I need not continue the list. Even Jews are capable of doing evil in blind obedience. At the start of the last decade of the twentieth century, in a case heard in Israel before a Jewish tribunal, we heard fearful testimony as to how Jewish soldiers received orders to break hands and legs - and actually carried out the orders! I repeat what I said before, that there is no people on Earth that can claim that they are immune from this terrible disease. While it is patently true that we have no other living example of evil perpetrated for its own sake that even approaches the Nazi atrocities, nevertheless whenever the safety, honour and peace of someone else is not important enough for us to prevent harm being sone to them in some way, the germs of possible atrocity has been sown. Thank God that in the cases I have mentioned there was public outcry and due process of law. This illustrates how important it is for Edmund Burke's "good men" to protest blatent evil is soon as it rears its head. We are, indeed, our brother's keeper.

No; it is not God who is responsible for our failure, it is not God who stands in the dock accused. It is God who charges us with the responsibility for maintaining the divine image that is implanted within us at all times in this world - especially when hooligans would distort, maim and destroy it. We have been warned that we are personally responsible for the security and safety of every fellow man on this planet "to the last syllable of recorded time" [William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 5:5].

After the Holocaust our world has become very small. The Jews of Europe were wrong when they thought that "it could never happen here". It is now quite clear that it could happen anywhere - anywhere where godless animals that pass for human beings choose to utilize their genetic right to defy their God and commit the most dreadful atrocities against their fellow man. It can happen anywhere where others - like you and me - just stand by and pretend that we have seen nothing, heard nothing - and worst of all actually say nothing and do nothing. As long as that happens, as long as that can happen, the deaths of our six million brothers and sisters in the gas chambers were in vain. Only when we succeed in establishing in this world the Kingdom of the Almighty - which means that the principles of elementary justice, love and mercy from each human being towards each human being are part and parcel of our ethical make-up - only then will we be able to know with certainty that their cruel deaths were not in vain and that the memory of each and every one of those six million dear souls will be an eternal blessing.

Despite everything that I have written above I am certain that there will still be people with a simple theology who wonder how God can permit such atrocities. I believe that the modern world we have created over the past few hundred years is such that simple theology will no longer suffice. The simplistic view of God, man, justice and righteousness that served our ancestors for millennia will now just leave us with so many unanswered questions that we begin to doubt even essential truths.

When, after the Exodus, the ancient Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea, there is a beautiful midrash [Yalkut Shim'oni, Exodus, #233] that depicts God as silencing the euphoric angels:

My creatures are drowning in the sea and you want to sing before Me!?

God could not prevent those deaths: the Egyptians had to share the fate of their wicked pharaoh because they followed him; but God could regret what was happening. And all that was happening happened when, according to the biblical account, God's immanence in the world was patently manifest. Another midrash [Mekhilta, Shirah, 3] tells us that

even the lowliest servant-girl saw at the [Red] Sea things not seen by Ezekiel and the rest of the prophets.

A very telling comparison is often made between two basic Jewish source-books: the Haggadah which we read on Passover and the biblical book of Esther which we read on Purim. These are two accounts of events that took place centuries apart: the Haggadah, which we read at the Seder service, tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt - very early on in biblical history; while the book of Esther tells the story of the way the Jews, at the end of the biblical period, were saved from the evil machinations of Haman. Both accounts have an interesting phenomenon: in the whole of the Haggadah the name of Moses is not mentioned even once and the entire deliverance is attributed to God alone; in the book of Esther the name of God is not mentioned even once and the entire deliverance is attributed to Mordechai and Esther alone.

Somehow, during those long centuries that separate Moses from Mordechai, God has disappeared from the picture. But this should not surprise us. At the very end of the Torah [Deuteronomy 31:16-18] God warns Moses that there will come a time when Israel's misbehaviour will cause God to withdraw from the world, as it were, and leave it to its own devices.

God said to Moses: You are about to lie with your ancestors. This people will arise and ... forsake Me and abrogate the covenant that I have made with them. Then My anger will flare up against them; I will forsake them and hide My face from them. Thus they will fall prey, and many evils and troubles will befall them. When that happens they will say, "Surely it is because my God is not with me that these evils have befallen me." But I will keep My face hidden on that day, because of all the evil they have done...

And then, in the very next chapter, Moses recites his famous poem, which is intended to serve Israel as a warning as to what will happen [Deuteronomy 32:4-20]:

The deeds of the Rock are perfect: all His ways are just;
A faithful God, never false, true and upright is He.
Is it He who is corrupt? No! the fault is with His children -
Crooked and perverse generation!
Do you attribute this to God, you dull and witless people?
Is He not the Father who created you, fashioned you and ensures your survival?
...
He found him [Israel] in a desert land, in an empty howling waste.
He surrounded him, watched over him, guarded him as the apple of His eye.
...
He [God] made him [Israel] ride the highlands, to feast on the yield of the field;
Fatness from the herd and milk from the flock...
With finest wheat and the blood of grapes as your wine.
Thus Jeshurun [Israel] grew fat and kicked [against the traces].
(You grew fat and gross and coarse.)
He forsook the God who made him and spurned his supporting Rock...
You ignored the Rock that begot you, forgot the God who gave you birth.
God saw this and was angry, and spurned His sons and daughters.
He said: I will hide My face from them, let me see how they fare in the end.
For they are a treacherous generation, children with no loyalty in them.

Thus it is clear that the further Israel wandered from God, the further God wandered from Israel. The sages called this present age the age of "the hidden face". Despairing of righteousness God withdraws from the world, as it were. Indeed, one sage in the Talmud [Ĥagigah 5a] says that Israel's sufferings are a sign that God is still with them:

Anyone who is not affected by "the hiding of the face" is not one of them [the Jewish people].

Man's task in this day and age is to mature into God's universe. We must constantly strive to foster goodness, righteousness and justice in the world. We must constantly remind ourselves - as individuals and as nations - that we are indeed our brother's keeper. The ethical meaning of 'the global village' is that no longer can any nation turn a blind eye to injustices done elsewhere on the globe. If, God forbid, there is another holocaust; if, God forbid, another people suffers the fate that the Jews suffered in Nazi Europe, it will be our fault, not God's.

If the human race actively pursues justice and righteousness there will come a time when God's face will no longer be hidden from us and we shall have merited ultimate redemption. We shall have become truly human.