Thursday, February 28, 2013

God of Parking Spaces

It is considered to be a common quandary for the religious: If there is a God, how can it be that bad things happen

It was not until I read this article by Stephen Marche that I realized that atheists have the opposite conundrum: If there is no God, how can it be that good things happen? 
. . . I was showing off my attic study to friends visiting from New York — a feeble attempt to demonstrate the advantages of living in Toronto by means of square footage — and their 3-year-old daughter, Emmy, wandered away while we were chatting. I looked over, then rushed over, both too late. All I managed to catch was the sight of her falling, a kaleidoscopic chaotic tumble. She flipped over three times. Her head hit the stairs, then her feet, then her head again, leaving a crumpled ball at the bottom. I knew instantly she must have been seriously hurt.
My imagination whirled with body casts and neck braces. Emmy’s father, rushing to her side, calmed her while surreptitiously and meticulously checking her body, piece by piece. She could move her neck, her legs. She could put her arms over her head. Relief poured over me like a pitcher of ice water. At least nothing major was broken. Then her dad began to look her over more closely. Not only was she uninjured, but she wasn’t hurt at all. Not a bump on her head. Not a bruise on her leg. Not a scratch. She didn’t need so much as a Band-Aid.
It’s not too much to say that Emmy’s wholeness shocked me. I could barely stand to look at her afterward. Every time I thought about what might have happened to my friends’ child, a fierce constriction grabbed my chest and a sickening feeling roiled in my belly. Over the rest of their visit, I kept randomly repeating, “That was a miracle.” It was the only phrase I could come up with. I didn’t know how to deal with inexplicable good fortune. Even after my friends returned to New York, the strange constriction in my chest persisted.
Judaism does not rely on miracles as proof of God's existence. We are taught Hashem appeared to our forefather Abraham, and to his son and grandson, as the aspect of God seen in nature (Shakai). When good things happened to them, they could be considered miraculous, yet were cloaked enough that they could be explained via natural laws.

The miracles of the Exodus of Egypt were meant to be a one-time deal; Moshe's life was to be that of miracles, and that is one of the reasons why he could not lead us into the Land of Israel, in that the Jewish people had to reaccustom themselves to natural law after living forty years in the super-natural. It's easy to be religious when lunch falls from the sky; let's be religious when dinner is harder to get on the table.
We are encouraged to see the miraculous in a Brooklyn parking spot, in a reduced-price skirt, in ideal weather for an outdoor chuppah. We are always taught Hashem is in the mundane. But I find it odd that that the same person who will gush that it was a miracle that they were on time when they were stuck in horrible traffic can say in the next sentence that their niece is drowning in a "shidduch crisis." 

Have we kept God for the most minute of our lives? For the petty tasks of a found shopping cart, yet we cast Him aside when it comes to the big things? 

It says in the text that Hashem spends His time (not time as we know it, since God is outside of time, but whatever that means) making shidduchim. It's not just a cute line for a Hallmark card. If we don't see the divine in the major occurrences in our life, then we are just viewing Him as a good luck charm

The same Hashem that guides my hand to the most beautiful yet surprisingly on-clearance pair of shoes is there when a date happens, whether it falls flat or ends well. He is certainly there for every other hardship as well, the horrors that my grandparents managed to survive

My bashert will be, well, bashert. But why can I not view my single state as bashert as well? It is not only bashert when everything works out; it is also bashert when everything goes to pieces. It is the same bashert if I circle blocks endlessly yet unable to park, if I emerge from a store empty handed, if skies open on a wedding day, forcing an indoor chuppah  

Bábi has been having restless nights, when she talks wildly, forgetting where she is. Her aide, a lovely Hungarian woman who truly cares for her, said soothingly, "It's all right, I'm here with you." Bábi replied, "All I need is the Jóisten." (Jóisten means "good God." Emphasis on the "good.") 


Mystery Woman said...

That's a really good point that I forget sometimes. Thank you for reminding me.

FrumGeek said...

The timing is actually perfect. I just went out with a girl last night who I liked, but apparently she didn't return the feeling, and I was feeling pretty blue. But then you put this up! A miracle ;)

Princess Lea said...

We've all been there. Glad to be the divine inspiration. :D