A man is sitting on his porch as flood waters rise. A woman floats by in a boat, asking if the man needs help. “No, thank you,” says the man, “I trust that God will provide.” The waters rise higher, sending the man upstairs. A raft full of people floats by his second story window. “Get in,” they say, “there’s plenty of room.” “No thanks,” says the man, “I trust that God will provide.” The flood waters keep rising, pushing the man up to the roof. A helicopter swoops in, lowering its ladder for the man. “Thanks anyway,” shouts the man, “I trust that God will provide.” Finally, the man is swept away in the torrent and drowns. At the gates of Heaven, the man asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” “What do you mean?” replies God, “I sent two boats and a helicopter!”
I’ve been hearing a lot of crap recently–stuff about France wanting to re-colonize Mali, about how important my horoscope is, about God providing when we decide to make irrational decisions because they are more enjoyable than the sensible option, about God in general. So I’ve been angry and skeptical recently, and vehement about steering clear from any hocus pocus and trying to focus on the logical, the reasoned, the sincere. (I don’t want to read Talmud anymore; unfortunately, however, it’s too late to sign up for linear algebra this far into the semester.)
But this story I like. It says that God has put out things into the world that we can grasp, manipulate, and learn from. God creates the opportunity for things to happen, but ultimately it lies with us to do something with it. We have agency and we are not exempt from making use of it. God has already provided a long time ago–it’s called the Big Bang. Now it’s our turn. And it’s not just about getting into a life raft, but learning to make one, paying for materials out of pocket, constructing it, and putting oneself and others inside in order not to drown. There is no excuse not to.
On a related note, I was sitting in class thinking about Judaism’s radical monotheism–which posits nothing is outside of God–when I had a thought that brought together many pieces of thinking I’ve entertained over the years. If God really is everywhere and everything, what’s the point? God is both the good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter, the blooming and the rotted. So how is anything better than anything else? Why does it matter whether we do good or bad, if God is all of it? And moreover, if God is everything, why bother thinking about or referring to God?
Needless to say, this does not help the case for my Talmud class. Although to be honest, Talmud does not seem very concerned with God in the least.