God Knows

Rabbi Dr. Irwin Wiener

Rabbi Dr. Irwin Wiener

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), American Women’s Rights advocate, wrote, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” I think of this every time I read or hear about someone pontificating on what God wants from us and for us. It amuses me that there are those who proclaim to be in direct contact with God, and it is because of this so-called connection that they attempt to control our every thought and action.

To ascribe this to arrogance would be to underestimate the detriment to which they affect our lives. Perhaps we could describe these people as sanctimonious. The clear indication is that there are people who think they are better than others and use God as the justification for their feelings.

Perhaps we should attempt to understand the purpose for which faith was installed in our psyche. Faith, to me, is synonymous with hope. Each gives us the opportunity to make sense of our lives, no matter what direction is followed. That is exactly what Scripture is intended to inculcate in us. The words found in these various writings are there to help us understand human nature and the various relationships we discover as time progresses.

Whether one believes that these words are inspired or the result of revelations does not alter the fact that human behavior is dictated by moral responsibility and the attitude of right and wrong. These are the fundamentals of a civilized society as prescribed by God. Still, we are just human. I believe this gives us an added responsibility. To attain a level of attempting to emulate God is not an easy task. We are so fragile and susceptible to so many distortions.

The Prophets attempted to reinforce this concept of goodness by illustrating what can become of us if we destroy the very fabric of our existence. They illustrate in prose the things we can do to ourselves and can surely be inherited by those who follow. When Scripture talks about the sins of the fathers carrying forward to our progeny, it is describing what can result if we do not realize the harm of not recognizing the path of destruction. It is not a curse but, rather, a warning.

Closed minds lead to closed thoughts and, in turn, to dogmatic approaches to our existence. Living life with no peripheral vision is tantamount to walking around with a blindfold, cutting off not only vision, but light as well. Think of it as walking into a dark room, feeling our way, groping for support, and only realizing redemption when a light appears.

Being judgmental or critical is a form of abuse and is contrary to what faith is intended to accomplish. Acceptance and encouragement are what is needed if we are to find fulfillment. Jealousy leads to contempt. Satisfaction with our lot eliminates frustration. Gratitude gives us the ability to accept what is, with an eye toward what could be, if we try.

Perhaps Susan B. Anthony was attempting to teach us these very things. Perhaps Scripture can instill in us the understanding that we are responsible for our actions, because they affect not only ourselves, but those around us as well. Perhaps we can and should feel better, not because we followed some prescribed order or spoke words that are lost as they are uttered but, rather, because we have a clearer picture of our purpose—not because someone told us to, but because we know full well the impact of these words, and because we can come together in the one place designed to help us understand a little better—our houses of worship—and to understand that our lives were placed in our hands, not someone else’s.

This is the eternal gift given to us by God.