In this week’s parsha we read of a mutual disappointment. God, so to speak is disappointed in Moshe’s reaction to the events at Pharaoh’s palace. Moshe complains, “Since You sent me on this mission the situation has worsened and You have not saved Your people!” God, in a manner of speaking, is disappointed with Moshe’s complaint. He remembers, as you might say, the loyalty of our Patriarchs – Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov – who never doubted or questioned the legitimacy of His promises and commitments. There is an apparent standoff here – a crisis of confidence and faith. Even when the Jews are finally redeemed from Egypt and receive the Torah at Sinai, Moshe is still not satisfied with his relationship with the Lord. He asks again, “Let me know Your ways.” How do You run the world? Why the Holocaust? Why the tidal waves? Why indeed? In this, Moshe echoes the challenge that our father Avraham put forth to God – “Shall the Judge of the entire universe not act justly?” Why can we not know Your reasoning and decipher Your code for guiding this world? Where is Your fairness and balance? How is your goodness seen to be manifested in our lives and world? Moshe is not alone in asking these questions. They are the subject of the entire biblical book of Iyov. These questions are the ones that dominate all Jewish philosophy throughout the ages. They are certainly the questions that haunt post-Holocaust Jewry today.
God provides an answer to Moshe. The answer is that the finite cannot ever understand the infinite – “living humans can never see Me!” Though this may seem to be an unsatisfying response to the questions posed above, it is in reality merely a restatement of the human condition. Humans are mortal and God is eternal. As great as human intellect is, it is still essentially limited. God is omniscient and omnipotent. Human beings are not. This is the answer that the Patriarchs arrived at on their own in achieving a sense of their true relationship with God. Moshe persisted beyond the point where the Patriarchs retreated in submission to an unknowable God. But he too would have to eventually withdraw from the fray. About Moshe it is written, “He was just short of God Himself.” But at the end of the day, Moshe remains a human – the greatest of all humans, but nevertheless human. And the line between humans and our Creator cannot be crossed. God’s ways are awesome and frightening, comforting and endearing. But whatever we perceive them to be, they are beyond our ability to fathom and explain. “For your thoughts are not My thoughts and your ways are not My ways,” as God tells the prophet Yeshayahu. And so it is in this vein this that Jews have understood the Godly relationship with all of humanity. The Talmud tells us that the prophet Chavakuk summed up all of Judaism with one phrase: “And the righteous shall live by faith.” And so it is with us as well.
Rabbi Berel Wein.