USA TODAY ran a lengthy front page article on the ways different people touched by the horror of 9/11 are dealing with their faith (April 18-20, 2008). Some found God through the attack, others lost God because of it. At the heart of the article is the question, “Where was God on 9/11?”
There were the expected answers: God was with the victims; He was with the mourners; He was with the rescuers. But the one answer that I wanted to hear, the one that we must hear, and the one that was missing was this, “God was flying those planes into the Towers, the Pentagon, and the ground.”
The terrorists were people of faith. They were prayerful men of God carrying out His Will. True, I think they were evil and their god a projection of that evil, but I do not question the authenticity of their faith. According to them, it was God who told them to kill thousands of Americans, and I have no way of proving them wrong.
I mentioned this to a rabbi friend the other day and he said, “God protects the innocent. The way you know God is God is that He protects the powerless.”
I wish it were so, but here we are on the eve of Passover when millions of Jews around the world are going to celebrate God’s torment and murder of thousands of innocents! The Torah is filled with God sanctioned violence and acts of genocide. If that was God’s Will then, how can I be certain that it isn’t God’s Will now? Is the best I can say is that the true God wouldn't target me and mine? That too is disproved by the Torah where God is more than happy to wipe tens of thousands of Israelites whenever they displease Him.
Believing in God is dangerous business.
I am not demeaning the faith or lack of faith of the people mentioned in the article. I am only suggesting that a deeper discussion is necessary. For me, no religion whose god sanctions violence is true. Judaism included.
The terrorists worshipped their own projections, feeding their own egos, excusing and sanctioning their own madness and murderous rage. There are passages of Torah that do the same. The only difference is who is doing the killing. Can it be that the Israelites who heard God command them to exterminate Amalek or the inhabitants of Jericho were right, while the Moslems who hear God command them to exterminate their enemies are wrong? Or is right and wrong simply the byproduct of who is claiming to hear what from Whom? This is a crucial question on the eve of Passover.
Tomorrow night we Jews are going to celebrate a destruction no less horrifying to the ancient Egyptians than the Twin Towers attack is horrifying to modern Americans. I can't do this any more. I know we want to say it isn't the same; I know we want to say our God is good and true, and their god is evil and false, but our story does not bear this out.
So this Passover I will ask four new questions and invite you to do the same:
1. Why on this night do we celebrate the slaughter of innocents when on all other nights we decry it?
2. Why on this night do we link ourselves to a murderous god, when on all other nights we are horrified by others who do the same?
3. Why on this night do we read this nightmare of liberation and pretend that doing so doesn’t continue the jihadist mentality that plagues all three Abrahamic faiths?
4. Why on this night do we spill a little wine from our cups so as not to rejoice at the suffering of others when we should refuse to drink at all, saying to God and to ourselves, “Enough! You stamp out the righteous along with the wicked! It is a sacrilege to You! Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?” (from Genesis 18:23-25).
Chag Sameach Pesach!