Can We Hold G-d Accountable?

There is a custom, within Orthodox Jewish circles, of not spelling the name of the Lord in English without inserting a dash in the center, hence G-d.  This parallels the use of the apostrophe when writing G-d’s name in Hebrew, to avoid spelling the Deity in entirety.  I’ve not seen the same when it comes to other names for the Deity in English transliterations such as “Hashem” – The Name; or “Hakadosh-Boruch-Who” – The Holy One Blessed Be He.  Perhaps it’s because the latter are descriptive, whereas G-d is considered … well, G-d.

At this time of year, Rosh Hashanah – or the Head of the Year,  the Jewish New Year, Jews present themselves prima facie before G-d to be held accountable for their actions during the preceding year.  It would seem to verge on sacrilege to suggest that there is a two-way street; that Jews could possibly hold G-d accountable for actions during the preceding year.  Yet it is very tempting to do so when the unconscionable occurs, as happened the day before Rosh Hashanah this year in East Brunswick, New Jersey, as a 51 year-old husband and wife walking home from synagogue were mowed down by a driver who lost control of her car.  I use the term unconscionable from the standpoint of being unfathomable or, at best, incomprehensible.

The decree as to who will live and who will die is sealed on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  Not only who will die, but how they will die.  Here is the key text of the “Unisaneh Tokef” prayer:

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquillity and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

Evidently it was sealed last year that Ari and Sari Horowitz, the couple killed by a beast of modern invention, would meet their demise right before Rosh Hashanah.  But did it have to be that way?  With all the tools at G-d’s disposal, did the family who lost Ari’s older brother, Neil [Natan] 26 years ago in a car accident have to suffer the kind of loss that brought back painful memories in such a flood, at this time?  That seems to be the real significance of the “dash” in G-d’s name: There’s something missing that is central to questions that we formulate.  The observant have reconciled that there is a larger picture we cannot see; that there is a purpose and master plan to everything that we as humans cannot fathom.  We comfort one another when there are tragic, gut-wrenching losses by rationalizing why an elderly couple is supposed to go on living when both of their children have been ripped from their hearts in such a catastrophic way, and how the rest of the family must subdue demons with which they had finally made peace, by convincing one another that these necessary losses, in these necessary ways, are because G-d needs the ones that he takes at this time, and in this fashion.

Until matters are spelled out more explicitly, the hyphen remains.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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3 Responses to Can We Hold G-d Accountable?

  1. Elena says:

    It takes alot to make me cry, this did. Very moving and so true.
    Elena Goldstein

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read it, and to comment Elena. It is something that I would have rather not written, but felt moved and compelled to do so. Best wishes for a HEALTHY New Year and one filled with gladness and good tidings that offsets at least some of the inevitable sorrows.

  3. Jonathan Reif says:

    בע”ה, ג’ בתשרי תשע”ג
    Dear my Loving cousin: Ari & Sari

    This last Shabbat, we read in shul
    “אתם ניצבים היום כולכם לפני ה’ א-לקיכם, … כל איש בישראל”
    All of Israel , regardless of their status are – a “Aish”. Regardless of their station, no one is up, and no one is down. Every איש gets the same honor from Hashem.
    These words from the Parasha were so accurate, Ari and Sari respecting every person for who they were –
    This Shabbat Right before leaving Shul, you reluctantly agreed to be honored by your congregations. You left shul on Shabbat for the last time, and are no longer NITZAVIM. Today we stand before you, Sadden and broken, standing here to give you a measure of honor so rightly deserved.
    Ari & Sari – Otiot ‘Aesh’
    There was no Mitzvah which you did not do without Msirot-Ha-nefesh.
    The Msirot-Ha-nefesh and Aesh hatora in every mitzvah.
    אהבת השם, אהבת העם, אהבת התורה, אהבת ישראל,
    אהבת ארץ ישראל, כיבוד אב ואם, גמילות חסדים ומתן בסתר.
    Loving Hashem, Loving Eretz Yisrael, Loving Am-Yisrael, and above all Loving Family.
    You both worked with a mesirot ha-nefesh that only maalet-tzdikim have. Every one of Ahavat hatora: leaders of the Young-Israel and Bnei Israel congregations in the states. Khilat-Mitzpah-Nevo here in Maaley-Adomim.
    Ahavat-Israel; Your were Bnei-Avika madrichim, shlichim and for the to bring jews to Israel.
    Ahavat Eretz-Israel: coming to Israel with the Hacsara program to Kibbutz Saad. Ari Joined צה”ל as a proud Jew in Israel.

    Ari & Sari you both had the Aesh for Eretz-Israel. Coming back together to live in Israel. With the love to Ahavat Hasem & Haam. You gave Ami the name Ami-Ad Nisim.
    After the untimely loss of your beloved brother Neil Nathan Yechiel Z”L. you went back to help out, putting your life here on hold just to be mekayem the mitzvah of Kibud-Av Va-Em.
    Looking out for the mispacha, putting them together with so much love and hard work, but not forgetting the rest of the mitzvoth that are around.
    With the birth of Natanya – thanking Hashem you both dove into a life of Gmilot-chasadim & matan beseter.
    Driving back and forth to the shore to look out for and check on our aunt Miriam Z”L, making sure that she get the right treatments that that the house was warm in the winter. You would say to me Sari: was there, went there, and will going again this week, where almost the secret code for another Mitzvah that was done.
    You both took care of Uncle Aaron Z”L in his illness, moving him near you so that he will get the best medical care.
    So many acts of Chesed-shel- Emet taking care of the others, putting up your money first then asking others to join the mitzvah
    In Shmuel Bet, King David mourns…
    הנאהבים והנעימים, בחייהם ובמותם לא נפרדו
    מנשרים קלו ומאריות גברו
    The heart of the word NSHARIM is your name SARI and the heart of the next is ARI.

    Ari & Sari your love and marriage was like Adam and Chava in Gan Eden, you had eyes only for each other, and so your names are already sealed in these books for Gan-Eden.

    We all yesterday were asking out
    “שכל המלאכים שהם פועלי תפילות, יביאו תפילתנו לפני כסא כבודך”
    Sy, Mirna, Michael, Aunt Eva, Uncle Yosi, Ami and Natanya

    Ari and Sari will escort our prayers before מלאכי השרת with all the Zatikim in Gan Eden.
    To you Ari & Sari, we found the place were you could go on and look down on your loving brother Neil Z”L which we all loved also.

    נוחו בשלום על משכבותיהם, ותהיו מליצי יושר בעד המשפחה וכל עם ישראל,
    תהא נשמתכם צרורה בצרור החיים, אמן.

    Your love cousin Yoni Reif (Shoham, Israel)

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