Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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These poignant plaints bear witness to two exalted biblical
doctrines: (1) Man may engage in a dialogue with God; (2) man
may engage in a dialectic with God; he need not hold his peace
when he feels that the Author and Architect of the principles
of justice and righteousness seems to be contravening one of
those principles.
Glory in Failure
Judged by its impact on mankind through the ages, the Bible
is the most successful book in history. I t is, however, far from
being a “success story” in the light of modern criteria. I t is
replete with records of failure and defeat, human and divine.
Genesis 6:5-7 presents an extraordinary confession of divine
And the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in
the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that
He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His
heart. And the Lord said: ‘I will blot out man whom I have
created from the face of the earth . . .
for I regret that I have
made them
Man, creature of flesh and blood, cannot escape the frailties
and imperfections of his fallible creaturehood. However, when
one contemplates the highly gifted biblical personalities who
tower like spiritual mountain peaks in the Bible, one might
expect a special preferred relationship of success in their lives.
Their lives and labors contributed immeasurably to the unfold-
ing social, moral and ethical sense undergirding civilization. They
were the conduit for the eternal verities which were infused into
human consciousness. As the elect of God, they might have been
expected to be crowned with triumphs befitting their status.
Such, however, was not the case. On the contrary, many of
them drank deeply from the bitter flagon of failure. Indeed,
one sometimes wonders if failure was deliberately injected as a
paradigm for biblical leadership. Perhaps this is what Rabbi
Alexandri meant (Lev. Rabbah), “If a person uses broken vessels
it is a disgrace to him; but God uses broken vessels, as it is said
(Ps. 34:19), ‘The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken
heart.’ ”
Let us commence with our first patriarch Abraham. I t would
be hard to conceive of agonies, disappointments and frustrations
more devastating than those he experienced. He came within
a hair’s breadth of sacrificing his son Isaac, the apple of his eye.