Yesterday, after posting the Praise Power message, I opened the novel I’m reading (Yes, I’m one of those confused, neurotic people who have at least five books on the go at once.), and found the following passage. It seemed to fit so well with yesterday’s post, I thought I’d quote it for you.
While We’re Far Apart, by Lynn Austin, is set in WWII, so it made good reading over the Remembrance Day holiday. I recommend it for the picture it gives of life in the U.S. during WWII, for both Jews and Gentiles, and also for its honest examination of the age-old question, “Why Did God Let This Happen?”
From Chapter 23, pp204-206:
“Do you think it does any good to pray, Mr. Mendel?”
The truth was that he was still too angry with Hashem to pray. But just as his newspaper photos had fueled Esther’s fear, he saw that his lack of faith would have an influence on her, too. It would be very wrong to lead these children into the dark, hopeless world where he lived. Should he tell them not to come anymore? No, Jacob had grown very fond of them. They were the only bright spot in his life right now. He groped for a reply.
“Sometimes, Esther, it is wrong to judge the effectiveness of prayer by looking at the immediate results. Do you know the story of Joseph from the Bible?”
She looked thoughtful for a moment, “You mean the boy with the coat of many colors?“
“Yes. Exactly so. In the story, everything looked very bad for Joseph—sold as a slave by his own brothers, living far from home. He was even locked in prison for a while, falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. His father feared he was dead.” Jacob had to pause as grief strangled him. He closed his eyes, thinking of his son and the cart full of Jewish corpses, thinking of the detectives who had come to his apartment making false accusations. The police wanted to put Jacob into prison, too, for a crime he did not commit.
“All that time,” he said when he could speak, “all that time Joseph prayed, and it must have seemed like Hashem wasn’t listening.”
“Is that God’s name, Hashem?”
“No, Hashem means ‘The Name.’ One of the Ten Commandments says it is wrong to take His name in vain. We believe that His name is so holy that we must never speak it. Instead, we say Hashem—The Name.”
“So, Joseph prayed to Hashem?” Esther asked.
“Yes, I am sure that he prayed something like, ‘Get me out of this prison! Get me back home to my family!’ Hashem may not have answered Joseph’s prayers the way that Joseph wanted Him to, but it turned out that Hashem had a very good reason for keeping him in Egypt. Of course, Joseph could not see how it was good until many years had passed. But Hashem was at work all that time, raising Joseph up to become a leader in Egypt. And when famine came to the land of Israel, Joseph’s family came to him there and were rescued.”
Peter wrote something on his piece of paper and pushed it across the table for Jacob to read: Mama used to tell us that story. Jacob thought of Rachel Shaffer and his own Miriam Shoshanna, and several moments passed before he could speak.
“Hashem may not answer our prayers the way we want Him to,” he said, clearing his throat. “He did not deliver Joseph from prison right away. But Hashem was there with Joseph, even in the silence.”
“Is that true, Mr. Mendel? Does God—Hashem—really hear our prayers?”
Esther and Peter were looking to him for answers. And for hope. He felt none. Why had he ever opened his door to them? Should he lie?
“’The righteous shall live by faith,’” Jacob finally said, remembering the rebbe’s words. “Faith is believing, even when you cannot see it. Like Joseph did. He never stopped believing in Hashem. And in time, his prayers were answered in ways he never could have foreseen.”
Do you see how this fits with the Praise Power idea? Or is it just me?