Lent Day Eleven

Remember John of God, founder of hospitals and pioneer in the care of the sick and the poor, Spain (1495 - 1550)

From 'All Rivers Run to the Sea' by Elie Wiesel
page 103 a chapter on suffering.

'God accompanies his children into exile. This is a central theme of Midrashic and mystical thought in Jewish tradition. Just as the people of Israel’s solitude [?] mirrors the Lord’s, so the suffering of men finds its extension in that of their Creator. Though imposed by God, the punishment goes beyond those upon whom it falls, encompassing the Judge himself. And it is God who wills it so. The Father may reveal Himself through His wrath, He may even sharpen His severity, but He will never be absent. Present at the Creation, God forms part of it. "Let atar panui minei" is the key phrase of the Book of Splendour, the Zohar: No space is devoid of God. God is everywhere, even in suffering and in the very heart of punishment. Israel’s sadness is bound to that of the divine presence, the She’hina: together they await deliverance. The distress of the She'hina seems unbearable to the children of Israel, so Israel’s torments rend the heart of the She'hina.

What happens to us touches God. What happens to Him concerns us. We share the same adventure and participate in the same quest. We suffer for the same reasons and ascribe the same coefficient to our common hope.

Commenting on a verse of the Prophet Jeremiah according to which God says, 'I shall weep in secret,' the Midrash remarks that there is a place called 'secret' and that when God is sad, He takes refuge there to weep.

For us this secret place lies in memory, which possesses its own secret.

A Midrash recounts: When God sees the suffering of His children scattered among the nations, He sheds two tears in the ocean. When they fall, they make a noise so loud it is heard round the world. It is a legend I enjoy rereading. And I tell myself: Perhaps God shed more than two tears during His people’s recent tragedy. But men, cowards that they are, refused to hear them.

Is that, at last, an answer?

No. It is a question. Yet another question.'