Friday, December 03, 2010

This is the Fast I Desire

Earlier this week, there was a lot of debate about the propriety of having the Chief Rabbinate call for a Fast Day to beg for Divine intercession for much needed rain. I thought I'd made my point in the comments to this posting, and let that suffice.

As of last night, I've changed my mind.

The first reason was provided by the inferno raging on Mount Carmel (now apparently caused by Arab arson), which has killed 41 people, destroyed over 5,000 acres of forest and destroyed a kibbutz and hundreds of homes. The wide extent of this horrendous disaster is primarily due to the lack of rain (adumbrated by the lack of proper fire fighting equipment). So much for the argument that the present drought does not constitute an existential danger to us in Eretz Yisrael.

The second motivating reason was supplied by a conversation I had with someone who belittled the entire idea of fasting, prayer and beseeching God to send rain and preserve us. This, ostensibly religious, individual averred that God does not reply to our prayers and that nature will always take its course. When I objected that I could never agree to such a proposition, and that I have seen too many miracles in my life to think otherwise, I received the response that I was primitive and that if I've seen miracles, it's because I was looking for them.

So, here it is. I believe that, irrespective of the initiators of the Fast and Prayer Assembly, there is every reason to support their being held. First, the lack of water and rain is an existential problem for us. In addition, I see absolutely no reason not to continue believing that (even in a world wherein God hides His Countenance from us) rain is a sign of Divine Providence, or that God doesn't answer our prayers (though sometimes the answer is no). Isn't that the message of Hanukkah that God works through what are, prima facie, natural processes. Is this not the essence of נסים נסתרים, of Hidden Miracles? (And, by the way, Ramban actually did believe in Natural Law.) Even granting the danger of people adopting a puerile attitude toward prayer (I'll ask, God will give.), based upon a Deus ex Machina type of attitude, that does not justify not crying out for Divine Intervention.

The fast that God wanted was that we should come to know Him. Or, as the Kotzker said, God is where ever one lets him in.

When we light the candles tonight, we might as well light our souls and burn or skepticism..


techIsrael said...

I would hate to think that one of the reasons for this fire is to nip in the bud an attitude among religious people (as enunciated by R. Lichtenstein) that we can do without rain. The mekorot clearly say that a lack of rain in EY is a klala, and all the desalinated water in the ocean would not have prevented this fire - whereas a couple of good November dunkings would probably have saved 90% of the forest.

rutimizrachi said...

I'm all for lighting our souls and burning our skepticism. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

Anonymous said...

Tomer said...

Hello Jeffrey,
Are you not going to change the words "Arab arson" and "murdered" on your post? I think they put it to shame.

Jeffrey Woolf said...

I changed 'murdered' but left 'Arab arson' because there were dozens of acts of arson by Arabs to advance or extend the fire in the past three days. There were twenty of these in Jerusalem alone.

Tomer said...

Ok, I'm sorry I used words that are a bit too harsh. Though I still think the way you put it is not accurate, and that we should be extra-carful about blaming minorities.

Jeffrey Woolf said...

With all due respect, it's an ever more irredentist minority.

Anonymous said...

for some reason I can't view comments on adderabbi's blog. Based on what you wrote here I'm assuming that you sort of adopted RML's view and now changed your mind.
RML's essay was highly problematic - IRRESPECTIVE OF THE FIRE. The fire only showed one aspect why. His reasoning was faulty and was based ion assumptions that even undergraduate students agronomics, economics, engineers who know desalination, theology students and a host of other discplines could have easily refuted.
Much like his essay defending the Gush Katif expulsion it is based on a faulty view of the world.