Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Lesson from Iyov -- HaShem Prefers Honest Criticism to Ingratiating Flattery

When I first took college physics, I had wonderful professor: Mr. Work.  (No, really, his name was Lloyd Work; great name for a physics teacher, no?)  I learned a lot from Mr. Work.  I went to his office once to ask some questions, which lead to a more advanced discussion, and he pulled out a quantum mechanics text to elucidate his point.  I looked at the pictures and said I got most of it, but was confused by certain details.  (Not really important for my point here, but I was confused by the meaning of the quantum mechanical electron cloud and how that related to electron shells that I knew from chemistry.)  Mr. Work got a whimsical smile on his face and said, "The only difference between you and me is that I get confused on a higher level than you do, and Feynman (gadol ha'dor in modern physics; died 1988) gets confused at a higher level than I do."  I am not sure if his intent was to humble me or to inspire me, but it did both.  I got a feel for the enormity of my ignorance, but was inspired that I could aspire to whatever I wanted; I just had to be willing to put in the requisite time and effort.  Thank you, Mr. Work.

Throughout Iyov's debate, his manner is passionate, but to the point.  He dismisses their explanations by demonstrating time and time again they the do not stand up to careful scrutiny.  Finally, though, when his friends argue that HaShem's ways are just too deep to understand, Iyov changes tone.  Iyov responded by demonstrating that while they could only talk in generalities about "HaShem's mysterious ways", he (Iyov) could talk with authority on the details of what we know (ma'aseh ha'merkavah) and precisely where the limits of human understanding reach.  Iyov knows full well that he cannot fully understand HaShem and His Ways, but Iyov does expect (and is willing to expend whatever exertion is necessary) to discover an approach that at his level makes sense.  If that would not be true -- if there were absolutely no correlation between one's deeds and the outcome -- then there is no such thing as tzadik and rasha; there is, in fact, no real distinction between good and evil.  Iyov is willing to accept his own confusion, but he is not prepared to accept that reality is nothing but confusion and frustration.  The Wisdom of the Creator it deep beyond all understanding; it absolutely is not, chas v'shalom, random.

At this point, Iyov levels a very sharp criticism of his friends.  They are nothing more than the lowest kind of sycophants!  (Sycophant: a self-seeking, servile flatterer; a fawning parasite.)  They flatter HaShem by saying words that sound pious, but they don't really believe the words they are mouthing.  Their magnum opus?  "Oh... there is no question; it's all good no matter how it feels... la la la... I can't hear you."  Iyov is a great personality; wise, righteous, and pious.  He is willing to go to any length, to suffer and travail.  However, he is not willing to "thrown in the towel" and admit that there are no answers.

Iyov errs in how far he expects to be able to penetrate HaShem's Infinite Wisdom; he doesn't realize that one must ultimately admit his limits and then pray for deeper understanding as a gift from the Creator.  His friends?  Ultimately they simply take the easy road and stop questioning at all.  In doing so they deny themselves an honest relationship with the Creator; which means they deny the ultimate purpose of creation and are dangerously close to denying HaShem Himself, rachmana latzlan.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…