From the Heart with Rabbi Liebowitz

Wickedness comes into the world because of justice delayed! (Midrash)

Dear friends,

The spring holidays are seemingly on the way! Why seemingly? At this time of writing late February many trees have come into bloom and beautifully so. More than one member of our community has said with some trepidation, “I sure hope we will not have a late freeze or snowstorm.” Such an event may postpone growth or alter its healthy spring trajectory. I am reminded of the old wine commercial, “We will serve no wine before its time!”

In explaining the Shoah there is a most unhappy midrash called “the bones of the Ephraimites.” Briefly, it first explains why Moses led the Israelites round about the land of the Philistines after the Exodus for fear of war. They might get frightened and turn back to Egypt. This Midrash fancifully imagines that an earlier Exodus which was not sanctioned by God was attempted by the tribe of Ephraim. Good idea, but bad timing. As such, God brought death upon them by the Philistines as a punishment. How does this apply to modern theological grapplings with respect to Jewish suffering?

Many Ultra-Orthodox Jews, included among them Hassidim, maintain that the Holocaust was God’s way of punishing the Jewish people for the unsanctioned efforts of Zionists. They had the chutzpah to settle the land before the Messiah had arrived i.e. before God thought it was the right time. It is an ugly Midrash zealously appropriated to find a facile explanation for the horrors of the world. The reason that the Ephraimites were killed was the evil of the Philistines just as the fault of the murder of the six million is to be laid at the door of Hitler and “his willing executioners.”

I have been thinking and feeling a lot about Parkland Florida and the 17 who are no more and the glib supercilious claim that “this is not the time to discuss gun control or gun safety.” It is more than the right time to cry out “Enough!”

Yossi J Liebowitz, Rabbi