solitude_chagalBy Richard Mather…

Why did God hide his face when six million Jews were slaughtered in Europe? Why does the world pressure the State of Israel into making suicidal concessions? Why did God not come to the aid of Jewish freedom fighters in the first century? Why did He allow the Second Temple to be destroyed? Why, throughout history, have the Jews flung themselves on the wheel of history only to be crushed by it?

So many unanswered questions. Questions that cannot be answered.

Are such questions naive? Perhaps. But then again maybe it is time to rethink the notion of an all-powerful God who will intervene in history and rescue Israel from her oppressors.  We act under the assumption that God is both a Supreme Being and the Ground of Being. But maybe there is no transcendent or fundamental power in the classical sense. The dichotomy of an all-powerful God or the complete absence of God may be misleading. Perhaps  God’s power is self-limiting, which leaves more room for human agency.

Jewish experience is unfortunately one of exile and alienation – a sign that God’s power is not some awesome force. For much of history, God has been less of a presence and more of a simulacrum, the mere suggestion of a presence. God, it seems, does not exert control from on high; rather the power of God apparently works from underneath, through the whole of Israel, which functions as a messianic community in place of a future Messianic person or persons..

If Israel is the agent or manifestation of God’s limited power in the world, we must reframe our language and say that God is not Being but Event. God-as-Event is truly revolutionary because it means something unprecedented – the rebirth of a nation, a people, a language. Israel’s rebirth was (and still is) a protest against the world, a protest against the powers of the world – German power, British power, Arab power. And in standing with Israel rather than with the imperial powers of the world, God stands with a persecuted people. But he does not lift a finger. It is the community of Israel which acts on his behalf.

In 1948 when Palestine’s Jews declared independence, it wasn’t God who made a covenant with Israel; no, it was the people of Israel acting in accord with its own wishes. The declaration was a unique rupture in the history of colonialism and imperialism. But this declaration, this covenant, also ruptured the long-held hope of a messianic king or priest who would gather the Jewish people and end the exile. It wasn’t the messiah who restored the Jewish nation. It was the Jews themselves acting alone – without the assistance of God or his anointed one


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