God’s Role …
Is it not essential that as Jews we freely and gladly acknowledge God’s absolutely undeniable and indispensable role in bringing forth new life?
Can anyone truthfully attribute the conception, gestation and birth of a baby to woman and man alone as if the process of human sexual reproduction were not perhaps the most fundamental example of God’s handiwork?
Do we not speak of three partners in procreation: woman, man and God? Why is it that we can so freely say “Thank God!” upon the birth of a child whereas upon the death of a child … our understanding of God’s role becomes inherently problematic. Furthermore, can we even presume such a role, a connection? Does God have any part whatsoever in the circumstances surrounding and/or leading to the death of a child-whether by prolonged illness, death by violence, suicide or accident?
When there is reason for joy, we celebrate by praising and thanking God for His abundant blessings. It seems so right! So spontaneously easy! “Baruch Ha Shem!” Blessed be God’s Name for having bestowed such blessings upon me (us)!
What of the other extreme of life … when the "why" of a child’s death fails to elicit a satisfactory response! When this most unparalleled of tragedies turns the relative comfort of our untested emunah upside down, whereupon it is genuinely challenged, put to the test, steeled in the fiery furnace.
These thoughts occured to me after having seen the film Ushpizin-a story very much about emunah, belief, bitachon trust and the efficacy of prayer in the lives of a Chassidische couple who by film’s end-having prayed for and patiently awaited a pregnancy-can profusely celebrate the birth and bris milah, ritual circumcision, of their son for whom they thank God abundantly!
At life’s opposite end is a friend’s story of her eighteen-year old daughter whose dramatically determined but futile struggle against leukemia is lovingly told by her mother. Though seemingly diametrically opposed, these two stories: one of long-awaited birth, the other of long anticipated death, are linked by a common denominator … hope.
Hope is the great enabler. It sustains us both physically and emotionally when most needed-at a time when all seems lost, when prayer seems ineffective or the empirical data suggest an end nearer in time than we might have thought. Hope is the most stubborn defender of “lost causes”; it goes hand in hand with belief and trust in a divine agency whose tether to human affairs may seem at times either cut off entirely or worn and frayed.
What has any of this to do with Ben? Quite a lot actually! As any infertile couple will tell you after finally conceiving, children are a gift! A gift though that is received with no guarantees attached Our responsabi lity is to nurture, guide and love our children for as long as we have them. Bereft parents can attest to how variable that time can be.