Dear Rabanit Cohen,
I am wondering when Hashem stopped talking to us or interacting with us and why? I think of this often, but especially in relation to the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. I assume they were not just structure and that we built them because He commanded us to build them as a home for Him! Why is it that Hashem intervened powerfully in many seemingly less important aspects of our lives, yet when the Batei Mikdash were being destroyed, He remained silent. And He still remains silent?
Thank you for writing and for bringing up such an amazing question that has bothered Jews since the time we were exiled in Egypt. Even Moshe Rabeinu agonized over the hidden face of Hashem asking, “Why have you done evil to this people? Why have you sent me?”
Concerning the destruction of the first Bet Mikdash, the Gemara of Yoma tells us of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi (a”h) who said: “Why were they called Anshei Kneset Ha’gedolah, the men of the Great Assembly? Because they returned the crown to its original place.”
Moshe Rabeinu declared concerning Hashem, “The great, mighty and awesome G d.”
Yirmuyahu Ha’navi came along however and said, “Foreigners are dancing in His Temple! Where is His awesomeness?” Yirmiyahu would not call Hashem, awesome. Along came Daniel and said, “Foreigners are oppressing His children! Where is His might?” Daniel did not call Hashem, mighty. Then they (Great Assembly) came along and said, “On the contrary, this is the might of His mightiness, that He conquers His desire, for He shows patience to the wicked. And this is His awesomeness, for if not for the awe of the Holy One, blessed be He, how is it possible that a nation is able to endure while absorbed among the nations?”
And so they instituted that we should recite the words, “The great, mighty and awesome G d” in our tefilah of Amidah.
One of my talmidot was teaching her five year old son to ride a bike. Right now, he can ride with training wheels, and even then he falls once in a while. The mother can chase after him and ensure that he never falls. She could leave the training wheels on forever. But that is not the purpose. The mother wants her son to be able to ride off into the sunset without her. That is what being a mother is all about. Allowing the child to be able to one day function on his own even if he has to stumble and fall.
Hashem is great because He gives us a world and tells us to fix it. He could have given us a happy, care-free world and just enjoined us to have fun. But that would not be true kindness and He would not be a father. It would not be our world; it would be nothing more than a playpen we were tossed into. We would have no meaning or value life.
Instead, Hashem brought us here, gave us basic directions, held on to us for a while, sending Moshe Rabeinu and the neviim and then the chachamim, and then eventually took off the training wheels and let us go. Nevertheless, in His “apparent absence,” He is with us more than ever. While there appears to be so much contradiction, in the midst of the most unimaginable tragedies, Hashem’s holy hand could still be seen in miracles.
I believe that Hashem remains silent only when we do not know how to listen. If you are waiting for a booming voice from the sky to answer your tefilot, you may be like the child who is riding his bike into a wall and waiting for his father to catch and stop him. But if you will look into your own mind and heart that Hashen has given you and the signposts He places all around you, there, you will surely hear His voice loud and clear.
In truth, in His absence He and His kindness towards us is found even more than in His presence. That is His greatness and that is His awesomeness.