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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.


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