SUFFERING AND BELIEF IN G[-]D
By RABBI DR. RAYMOND APPLE
Q. How can anyone believe in G[-]d when there is so much suffering?
A. A British philosopher, Dr CEM Joad, was an agnostic for many years but turned to religion during World War II.
He said that previously he could find no room for G[-]d in the world because of the vast problem of suffering. Then he began to ask a different question: what gives human beings the power to survive and rise above all their suffering?
He came to the conclusion that there had to be a higher Power that sustained people in times of adversity and enabled them to believe that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.
This might help to answer your question. For more information about Joad’s metamorphosis, read his book, "G[-]d and Evil".
Let me add something from another British writer, GK Chesterton, who was no great friend of Jews or Judaism.
Chesterton once said, "When men cease believing in G[-]d, they do not believe in anything." One can criticize Chesterton for many things, but this observation is amply proved by history.
Jews tend to say a similar thing, though the Jewish way of expressing it is more likely to be, "Hard as it may be to understand the world with G[-]d, it is infinitely harder without Him".
STATUE OF A RABBI
Q. In Prague I saw a statue of the Maharal (Rabbi Yehudah Loew ben B’tzalel) who purportedly made the Golem. What is your view about statues of rabbis?
A. The Ten Commandments are against making "the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth" (Ex. 20:4).
The Talmud specifically says that one may not produce a representation of a human being (RH 24b). The Shulchan Aruch quotes a view that this applies only to the full form of a human and a partial view could be another thing (Yoreh De’ah 141:7).
Though this is due to a fear that the representation will become an object of worship, the rule applies even when the picture or statue is not for purposes of worship.
In the Talmud there are references to statues of kings and other leaders but I doubt whether there is any evidence of statues of rabbis.
If the Maharal had been asked about erecting a statue in his honor he would certainly have said "No". He would have told people that if they wanted to honor him they should read his books and heed his teachings.
The rabbis were probably not consulted about the statue in Prague and the odds are that it is part of the local culture and narrative.
I know from my own visit to the city that the story of the rabbi and his Golem is on the tourist agenda because of its romantic content, and the Jewish community is probably pleased to think that a Jewish contribution to local culture is so famous.
It is quite another question to ask why the Maharal’s community had to suffer so much anti-Semitism.
In contrast to Chanukah when it is customary to give gifts of money known as Chanukah gelt, the gifts we give on Purim are edible.
According to the Megillah it is a time of "sending portions to one another and gifts to the poor" – "mishlo’ach manot ish l’re’ehu umattanot la’evyonim".
Significant lessons are derived from this wording. From "mishlo’ach" (sending), we learn that the gifts should be delivered by others on your behalf; money gifts in particular are usually given anonymously. This saves embarrassment – the giver does not see the neediness of a poor recipient, and the recipient does not have to be ashamed of his of her poverty.
From the plural "manot" (portions), and "mattanot" (gifts), we learn to give at least two gifts.
From "ish l’re’ehu" (one to another), we learn to give to at least one other person.
From "mattanot" (gifts), we learn to give charity.
From "la’evyonim" (to the poor), we learn to give what the other needs.
An interesting comment of the Jewish law codes is, "We are not fussy about whom we give to on Purim; we give to anyone who stretches out his hand".
The edible gifts which are given – usually two kinds of food and drink – depend on local custom. There was a practice in North Africa to give sweet cakes with colored icing depicting figures from the Book of Esther, and the gentile population called the day "the sugar feast".
Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple
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3-9 Adar, 5781 Feb. 15-21, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--645th Web Ed.
GOV NEWSOM LAUNCHES PILOT PARTNERSHIP WITH BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO OPEN COMMUNITY VACCINATION SITES IN LOS ANGELES, OAKLAND
OAKLAND – California Governor Gavin Newsom and the Biden-Harris Administration today announced a pilot project to establish community vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles. The sites will serve as the pilot project for federal efforts to open vaccination sites nationwide. Also, these sites will provide targeted support to communities hit hardest by COVID-19 and its impacts.
These pilot sites, which will be based at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and California State University, Los Angeles, are part of the wider effort to establish 100 vaccination sites nationwide in the federal administration’s first 100 days. The sites will be co-run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of California through the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
“In the fight against COVID-19, partnership is key, especially when it comes to reaching Californians in underserved areas,” said Governor Newsom. “These new sites will help us get available supply to some of the California communities most in need. I thank the Biden Administration for standing with us as we continue our efforts to safely, swiftly and equitably vaccinate all Californians.”
“Both of these sites are perfect examples of how FEMA is working around the clock to support state led, federally supported vaccine delivery,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton. “Today’s announcement is a significant step forward in the ongoing effort to ensure every American who wants a vaccine will receive a vaccine.”
FEMA will provide resources and federal staffing support to establish these new community vaccination centers as well as operational support.
The two locations chosen for these efforts are in some of the most diverse and socioeconomically challenged communities in the country. They are also communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are home to essential workers who have borne the brunt of keeping the economy open over the past year.
The goal of establishing these joint federal pilot sites is to continue to expand the rate of vaccinations in California in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, with an explicit focus on making sure that communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection are not left behind.
In order to expand the reach of these state-federal sites further into the communities, each of these new sites will be paired with two mobile vaccination clinics which can be deployed to multiple locations to amplify and provide distribution to areas that otherwise lack sufficient support.
Preparations and buildout of these two locations are now underway and the sites are expected to be open to eligible members of the public beginning February 16. Registration for vaccine appointments at these two sites will be available through the state’s MyTurn scheduling system in the coming days.
The State of California is coordinating closely with FEMA to ensure the vaccine doses used at these sites will not decrease the available supply for other sites in the hosting counties.
HOW CALIFORNIA JEWS GRAPPLED WITH A NEW CURRICULUM
On this week's episode of the Identity/Crisis podcast, guests Sarah Levin of JIMENA and Tye Gregory of the JCRC of San Francisco join host Yehuda Kurtzer to discuss the years of work of their respective organizations on the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, and the controversy that seized the California Jewish community’s imagination – and its fears.
"When we thought about how to engage [the CA curriculum process], there were two fundamental principles: (1) each community has the right to tell its own story…and (2) no story, no figure, and no principle should fundamentally offend or hurt another community in the curriculum."