Sunday, May 29, 2005

Job 13

Behold, my eye has seen everything; my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I know, as well; I am not inferior to you. However, I shall speak to the Almighty; I desire to argue with God. But you are concocters of falsehood; worthless healers, all of you! Who would grant that you fall utterly silent; that would be a wise thing for you!

Hear my argument, if you will, and harken to the contentions of my lips. Will you speak dishonestly on God's behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for His sake? Will you flatter Him? Will you contend on God's behalf? Will you be well when He scrutinizes you? Would you make jest of Him as you would make jest of man? He will surely admonish you! Will you venerate Him when you are in His private chamber? Surely His exaltedness will terrify you; His fear will fall upon you! Your remembrance will be likened to ashes; your stature to lumps of clay. So be silent with me, and I shall speak; let anything that comes pass over me! Why should I carry my flesh with my teeth, and put my life in my hand?

Were He to kill me, I would still yearn for Him, but I will justify my ways before Him. He will also be my salvation, but a hypocrite will not come before Him.

Hear well my words, and let my expression be in Your ears. Behold, I have arranged my argument; I know that I will be vindicated.


Chana said...

This is one of the passages that I felt very deeply while still in my former school. I know that you write "be silent," but even so I will comment...

R' Soloveitchik writes of his understanding of the Job versus Koheles crisis, and the differences between the two men. This is in the book 'Out of the Whirlwind' which is his discussion of suffering, death, and pain.

"Man must try to combat evil and entrenched wrong at all levels- social, political, and natural. God, according to our viewpoint, has charged man with the great mission of completing and supplementing the Divine act of creation by improving nature and himself, by organizing a defense system against disease, poverty and other disasters. Our outlook is optimistic.......However, on the other hand, man was told not to try to disengage himself from his involvement in the depth crisis. To the contrary, he was commanded to deepen his involvement and to confront the crisis courageously and intelligently. Man must know there is no escape mechanism which may help him rid himself of this inner feeling of distress. He should condone and accept it voluntarily. Any attempt to flee this experience must end in real disaster.

Job and Kohelet sinned in this respect. Job tried to escape from reality and drugged himself into an illusory sense of serenity and security. He did not understand that the genuine existential experiences is fraught with incompleteness and the feeling of distress. He mistook a fantasy for a fact, a mirage for a reality. Although he thought that he had attained the very ultimate and final end, he lived in an unreal world, since there can be no reality- awareness without experiencing the very antithesis of this awareness. What worried Job was not his inner distressed personality, but rather external dangers: Satan's malice, foreign enemies, the natural elements, hurricanes, diseases, death and so forth. His fear was unpurged of its primitive terrors, and this ominous blood-chilling dread of forthcoming disaster moved him to bring burnt offerings every week in order to placate the wrath of the Creator. To Job, crisis meant only external catastrophe. Inwardly, he was contented and happy. Then Satan struck. The external crisis which he had feared became a reality. When man adopts a false sense of happiness and perfection, when he is complacent and lacks self-understanding, when he is too proud to admit failure because he can live only at the plane of majesty, in triumph and victory, refusing to acknowledge inner defeat- this attitude must end in external failure and holocaust."

And therefore, when men tried to comfort Job, they could not. Why?

"The depth crisis is a private affair. It is a unique feeling that cannot be shared by others. Each individual suffers in a way that is peculair to himself....Each individual, in his own particular way, meets his antagonist, who emerges not from the uncharted spaces of the external world, but from within; each individual grapples with the paradox hidden in his own existence. The individual alone [emph. mine] comes to grips with the antithesis that is born out of the thesis, and only he himself can feel the sharp pain caused by the conflict between the acts of positing and negating."

Pages 165-166, Out of the Whirlwind

Orthoprax said...


My reason for posting this segment of Job was not a comment on Job as a whole but his message to those who try to convince him that he's wrong.

They don't know God or His ways, yet they feel confident in calling Job a sinner and that in God's judgement he is guilty and deserved his punishment.

And it is apparent that even Rabbi Soloveitchik falls to this as well. Job was a good man and God himself is written to have said that Job was unlike anyone on earth in that he is "wholesome and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil."

Job _was_ good. That's what makes this book on the Problem of Evil so strong. The answer _is not_ that Job somehow deserved his suffering. That explanation comes from one who apologizes for God and argues falsely on His behalf. God doesn't need their help.

That's why God says that those who argued against Job were wrong in what they said. God says of Elihu, "Who is this who gives murky counsel, with words without knowledge?" 38:2 and in 42:7-8 when He yells at Job's friends.

While Job was wrong in his conclusions in that God must be unjust here (according to God) God does not say that Job was wrong to question. The situation certainly seemed unjust and Job was right to question.

This is relevant to my situation because, while I do not compare myself to the righteousness of Job - I do have my own failings, I question the world and I question God. People might call me a sinner and a bad person to ask such questions, but really I just ask to understand.

Lying for God is not at all righteous. Much better to be silent and admit that one doesn't have an answer than to make something up and lie "for a good cause."

Chana said...

I agree with everything you've said, except I don't see how R' Soloveitchik is dealing in apologetics...I personally don't think he does.

I doubt anyone could truly see you as a wicked person. Or if they did, they must not understand you...which you've already stated.

I especially agree with your last paragraph, "Lying for God is not righteous..." I was thrown into the principal's office more times than I could count simply because I asked questions the teacher could not answer.

Favorite answer of the teachers? "Don't think, just accept it."


This is a link to an article that I thought very much expresses what many religious people do when they don't have answers. The answer lies in censorship, or banning books, or in some way attempting to shut people up. In any case, perhaps it will interest you.

It's quite true. Job wasn't wrong to question, neither was Kohelet. Judaism is the religion of questions. Until there comes the rise of men who determine that they must rule over men, and the nations, and then they try to exert their power so that all can fit into neat little molds- and everyone shall retain the exact cookie-cutter shape.

It's very upsetting...