Pam’s Perspective: 4

21 Sep

As the holiest day of the Jewish year rolls around again, I find that I have a rocky relationship with God.  On Wednesday, Yom Kippur, we will sit in shul and say that today He decides who will live and who will die – but Penitence, Prayer and Charity avert the severe decree.  And I’ve got a problem with that.

The Jewish religion mandates praying 3 times a day; there is an opportunity each time to offer a prayer for someone’s health. So many people are praying for Martin – they ask for his Hebrew name, and the name of his mother, and they “add him to their list” (as some of them tell us) every day.  We are grateful for this; I think it is another facet of Judaism’s brilliance.  You pray for someone 3 times a day and so you think of him, you think of him so you call, or email, or visit.  Visiting the sick is one of the greatest mitzvot a Jew can perform – and it is tremendously supportive to the patient and his family.  So prayer is wonderful, and gives the supplicant a measure of (assumed) control.

But what of God, who receives the prayers?  Is He sitting there on high with a notebook, or an iPad, calculating whether the threshold of prayer has been passed or not, and He will show mercy?  Enough Shema Yisraels and He’ll add on another year?  People come up with strange and incredible manners in which we should appeal to God’s better nature: a friend’s son, studying in Yeshiva, told Martin to go into a small room and tell God, out loud, what he has done for God’s country.  Hmmm.  Does God not know? Has He forgotten?  Do I want to believe in a God like this?


Some of the more … ummm … ‘provocative’ Rabbis have their own take on tragedy.  When, many many years ago, a train ploughed into a bus full of schoolchildren on their way home from a class trip, killing over 20 kids, a Rabbi proclaimed it was because they didn’t keep Shabbat.  The same statement, from a different Rabbi, followed the disastrous crash of 2 air force helicopters, on their way to Lebanon.  When a bus load of Haredi children was blown up after that, resulting in the death of many innocent religious kids who did keep the Sabbath, the Rabbis said it was God’s will.

So it’s a win-win situation for God, I see: things go well, it’s because He’s answered your prayers, things go badly – well, it’s God’s will.  So many, many well-intentioned people are now telling me to trust in God – it’s all in His hands, it’s all from Above – I should be comforted in that.  Here’s the thing: it’s the opposite of comforting for me – I don’t want to believe that such a fickle God exists, and certainly not that I’m in His hands.  A line from King Lear leaps up each time I hear about praying to God: “As flies to wanton boys so are we to the Gods, / They kill us for their sport.” 

Oh dear.

But, you know what, I am desperate.  This year, as always, I’ll go to shul and beat my breast in penitence for the sins of eating and drinking (not waiting long enough for my Cadbury’s chocolate after my chicken), and for my foolish speech and wanton glance (though, for the life of me I can’t remember being wanton … but it’s best to be on the safe side); and we will give charity as we always do, and we will pray, oh how we will pray, for a better year for all.

And God, if you prove me wrong and show me that You are listening after all – well, I’ll even go into a small room and tell You, out loud, how much I love You.


Chatima tova[1] for to us all – to the House of Israel and all the other houses on God’s earth.



[1] May we be inscribed in the Book of Life

7 Responses to “Pam’s Perspective: 4”

  1. Glynne at 3:09 am #

    Wonderful perspective which i have passed on to a few people, I’m a friend of Russell and Karen, who follow the blog and loved your book Pam
    May you all be inscribed in the book of life

  2. Renee Cohen at 10:19 am #

    hear hear! G’mar hatima tova! Here’s for a good year, lots of love, the Cohens

  3. Michal Michelson at 6:20 am #

    Well, Pam, my only comment is that I don’t believe that we can’t understand the ways of God. I don’t understand much of anything anymore.
    I too will fast on Yom Kippur and beat my breast, but my prayers are just to make it through another day, and to not have any more of my children die before me, to last longer than my mom so she doesn’t have to know the loss of both her daughters.
    I do believe that Eyal is in a better world -how could I contemplate otherwise?- but I’m not. Trying one breath at a time to be there for my bereaved mom and my other kids as best I can, for as long as I have to.
    May Martin and you have many more years together, and may he keep on beating his cancer. Hang in there.

  4. Estelle at 7:45 pm #

    What can one say? For those of us without the (luxury of) a belief in the supernatural, the way that you and Martin are dealing with your life circumstances reinforces my firm belief in human beings and in what we are capable of doing with the cards we are dealt. Lots and lots of love

  5. angiemaus at 6:59 pm #

    Amen to that and a small PS in case He’s listening.
    May this year bring you that long awaited new drug.
    Chag sameach, we love you.
    Angie and Albert

  6. Orley Marron at 9:59 pm #

    Dear Pam,
    I forwarded your sad and ever so relevant discussion to my rabbi Gila Ken and others in the Reform community. We discussed Job in Shul this Yom Kippur, and ease with which the persona of God in the frame story is willing to sacrifice his worthy believer – almost on a whim.
    But what does this reflect on the writer of the story? That he too has seen time and again “Tsadik ve’ ra lo” – and has no anwers to give?
    Assaf says there should be a prayer of thanks for modern medicine, and an extra one for guiding scientists and researchers to find more solutions – and this is our hope, perhaps, that we have a godly creative capacity, and can discover the secrets just waiting around the corner in time to make a difference.
    Our prayers for Martin and everyone,

  7. Jeremias Tamayo Paz at 11:43 am #

    Thank you for sharing. Not to many people in your position are so gracious. Your article was very poignant and understandable. It helped me to understand very clearly. Thank you for your help.

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