Sunday, June 26, 2005

I Yelled At G-d

I yelled at G-d. I did. I yelled at him/he/she/her/it whatever. I screamed at G-d and beat the ground. I am not proud of it, but not quite ashamed either. It is not something that I keep to myself, but it is not something that I totally share either because, well, I don’t know why.

I can’t say because it comes from a place deep inside. It is a spot that lies beneath a lot of other junk so it doesn’t see daylight all that often. Maybe it is because I don’t like looking there because there are so many questions and so few answers.

When I was 19 I was madly in love with a girl that I though was supposed to be mine forever. I didn’t think of it as besheret, I knew it as such. I knew it the way a 19 year-old knows that life is going to give him everything because that is just how it works. I knew it in the way that I knew my hand, intimate and secure.

And then she left me.

She decided that I was not for her. She told me that she woke up one day and realized that she didn’t love me any longer. I was devastated. I couldn’t get a grip on it. It just didn’t make sense to me.

At that point in time I worked part time at a local shul where I assisted in the Hebrew school and youth departments. Monday through Thursday you would find me there between the hours of 3-6. And somewhere around a quarter to five you would find me davening with the afternoon minyan.

Almost without fail I would ask Hashem to fix things for me. I’d beg for a chance to fix the relationship or for something to help me feel better. I just couldn’t believe that my life had been spun around so dramatically.

One day Howie Mandel started showing up. His father had passed away and he needed a place to say Kaddish. He doesn’t know it, but it was his presence that helped me to recognize that I had gone astray. His loss was far more profound than mine. I stopped asking for things for myself and I healed, but I didn’t forget the feeling of not having my prayers acknowledged. I didn’t forget what it felt like to be ignored, but I didn’t focus on it.

Some years later I received a telephone call from a friend. I was in Los Angeles and he was in Boston. He told me that he was being held against his will in a hospital and asked me to get him out of there. I was 25 and working full time, but he was like a brother to me and I promised that I would help him.

So I began by checking airline flights from LA to Boston and considering how I would get him out of the hospital. As part of my research I got in touch with his family and found out why he had been hospitalized. It turned out that he had a brain tumor and that he was hallucinating. He was being held there, but for good reason.

Fast forward a few years. The first tumor has been taken care of and so has a second one, but there is a third event.

I am 29 now. I am married and have a little bit more life experience beneath my belt and I know that this time is different. I know that this time his life is in serious jeopardy and I am far more aware of it than I was before.

I receive word that the doctors consider him to be terminal. His family is going to bring him home for the final journey. I watch him deteriorate in front of me, his family and friends. I watch his parents deal with a pain that I can see in their eyes, but cannot imagine. And years later with the birth of my son I cry as I realize what loss they suffered.

His death comes after a relatively short period of time, but it feels like so much has gone by.

During his illness I have resumed asking G-d to do something to help. I have returned to the place where each day I spend precious moments begging G-d to spare him. If you can split the Red Sea, if you can cause manna to fall from heaven this should be easy.

I see no response. I hear no answers and I am angry. I begin to really speak my mind. I castigate G-d for being cold and uncaring. I yell and use the harshest terms. For a moment I think that I am overstepping my bounds and then I realize that I believe that he knows all of my thoughts anyway, so why hide.

The day of the funeral my friends and bury him. We watch his family’s most intimate moment of grief are displayed and we give all that we can by making sure that he is interred in the earth by people who knew him, who loved him and cared, not by strangers.

The cemetery is located next to my home. For a brief time I appoint myself his official caretaker and I visit his grave daily. I apologize for not being able to get through to G-d and not having been able to do more. And in the quiet stillness I ask Hashem why I couldn’t get an answer to my questions. Why couldn’t I be given something, some sign or acknowledgment of my presence. I feel badly because I feel like I was ignored and I wonder what I could have done differently and if it is selfish of me to feel this way.

Fast forward again to April of 2004. My father is ill. He is on his deathbed that is what the doctors have told me. They do not expect him to survive. I stand next to his bed and watch as he lies there unconscious. I do not know anyone stronger than my father. Mentally, physically he is unparalleled. I am a grown man, a father of one with another on the way and I feel so weak.

It is only because of the love I feel for him, for my mother, my sisters and my children, for our family that I am able to stand there and appear to be so passive.

At his bedside I beseech G-d to do something. But unlike before I am instantly angry because I remember being ignored and this time I will not accept that. I will not play Job or act like this is some kind of blessing. This is my father and I will be answered. I will be heard.

And in the quiet moments 3000 miles from home I battle for his life. I argue, I beg, I scream, I debate and demand that he be spared. It is too soon and too early for him to be taken.

Against the odds my father survives and comes home. I thank G-d. I thank G-d for everything. I thank G-d for having had experiences that helped to prepare me for this experience. I thank G-d for everything and I forgive G-d for not having responded to me earlier.

To some people this may sound rather trite. It may seem ridiculous and a little too easy, too much like a Hollywood ending. But my reality is that the day my father returned home I stopped feeling so angry and I was content.

I am in a place where I am comfortable and happy with my faith. It doesn’t mean that there are not times in which I question things or am upset, just that for now I am good and I am thankful for that.

(Cross posted on Jack's Shack)


SemGirl said...

A similar thing happened to my father 25 years ago. He was totally obsessed with his RY's daughter. Her brother said something very insensitive like dont tell a Shadchan you want a big Rov's daughter, that if he would hear it he would rather stick his head in the toilet.
He was very depressed for several years. Then he married my mother.
Last erev YCippur, the RY's daughter died at 39 of breast cancer and left behind 3 small children.

For over 10 years my father was convinced he was dealt a bad hand.
But if he got this girl he would be a very young almon now and I wouldnt be here. One never knows Hashem's hesbonos..

Jack Steiner said...

It is always easy to say that we do not understand, but much harder to accept.