“All’s right with the world,” I think on mornings like today, when I’m sitting on my little porch with my dog by my side, looking at the birds and the trees and the sky. And then I look at the news, and the endless array of sadness that parades past me on my Facebook page, and I realize that I am woefully incorrect.
When I think about it, all is not right even in my own little world, much less the world outside my doors. But that doesn’t stop me from having moments like this morning’s. Because I know better than to think everything is perfect, or even simply OK. Life is complicated, the world is complicated, and all I can do is celebrate the good things and deal with the difficult ones.
As a religious person, I’m often asked “Where is God in all this?” Good question. Reading this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, you might think that God is as capricious as the wind. First God promises Abraham his heart’s desire, a child. Later, God tells Abraham to sacrifice the very same child. That the sacrifice ultimately is stopped by an angelic voice doesn’t mitigate the fact that God commanded it.
Our tradition has a variety of answers as to why God tested Abraham. None are particularly satisfactory. If I am being honest, the only possible answer that I can give is “I don’t know.”
When I look at the big picture of Abraham’s story, especially the parts that are told in Vayera (Genesis 18:1 to 22:24) I am reminded that everyone is being tested: Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac. Even God. Because in God’s interactions with the humans in the story, they push back – Sarah laughs, Hagar cries, Abraham worries, Isaac asks a question.
Rabbi Nathan Cardozo wrote this week about “Abraham and the Impossible God.” In this fascinating article (click here to read it in its entirety) he writes, “…to be religious is to live with a God Who carries contradictions and incongruities. Consistent gods are idols because they don’t teach [humans] how to live in a world that is full of dichotomies and inconsistencies. To be religious means to know how to navigate unresolvable conflicts, to be bold enough to negotiate, and to stand upright even when failing.”
Which takes me back to the question: Where is God in all this?
My answer? Right here. In me. Beside me. With me. Accompanying me as I navigate my way through the world and the story of my own life. A God I cannot understand but am willing to grapple with. And what of the Torah? A book I only sometimes understand but am willing to grapple with.
I’m sure there are easier paths to follow. For me, this one is the most rewarding.