Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
16
He failed to maintain
sholom bayis
in his household; at Sara’s
insistence he had to drive out his son Ishmael, together with the
boy’s mother Hagar, into the wilderness of Beer-sheba and ex-
posed them to possible death. One can only surmise what utter
desolation must have scarred his sensitive nature. Yet, despite
these lacerating defeats, despite his mental anguish, he found
the pathway to God’s presence.
Moses! How many defeats he sustained in dealing with his
people! Moses, the lawgiver who brought discipline out of chaos
and anarchy, co-worker with God in creating a free people and
a new civilization—surely he deserved the fruits of triumph. But
they eluded him. His two monumental achievements—the Exodus
and later his role at Sinai—loom higher than Mt. Everest athwart
man’s spiritual topography. His personal life, however, was sad-
dened by a plethora of galling disappointments. Scorned by the
people he sought to serve, he drank the dregs of failure after
failure. His most crushing disenchantment and disappointment
came in his old age—he was denied entrance into the Promised
Land and died with his work uncompleted.
David! Slayer of gargantuan Goliath, composer of transfiguring
psalms, ruler over Israel for forty years, intrepid conqueror,
empire builder—what a phenomenal success! But was he a success?
Twice a fugitive in headlong flight for his life: first from King
Saul, later from his rebellious son Absalom seeking to usurp the
throne. What dirge can match in torment the broken-hearted
father’s lament over his dead son: “O my son Absalom, my son,
my son, my son Absalom, would I had died for thee, O Absalom,
my son, my son!”
This was not the end of his wretchedness. Another son, Ado-
nijah, attempted to seize David’s throne, and again the saddened
father wallowed in an ocean of despondency. And finally, the
overwhelming failure—God did not permit him to build the
Temple: “Thou shalt not build a house unto My name because
thou hast shed much blood . . .״’
This pattern of failure appears too frequently to be fortuitous.
All the prophets experienced it. Jeremiah hounded from pillar to
post, Ezekiel carried into captivity, Hosea betrayed by an adul-
terous wife—the entire coterie of prophets fought but failed.
Leprous, helpless, hopeless Job groveling in the dungheap, bereft
of children, stripped of affluence, taunted by his friends, is the
paragon of human suffering.
I t was in the labyrinth of their failures that the biblical giants
garnered whatever success they could wrest from life. Who will
attempt to envision the abject loneliness of their lives, the pain
of deeps and heights warring within them, the solitude of their
doubts and disappointments, the intensity of their spiritual