The Breaking Voice

It has been a really horrible week in Jewish camping. Early in the week three campers were struck by lightning at GUCI. Two of the three campers were released from the hospital and the third has been transferred to a hospital in his home town. And if that was not bad enough, a tree fell at Camp Towanga striking five counselors. Annais Rittenberg z”l was killed. This is so horrible, I have had trouble sleeping at night.

As I prepare for Shabbat I pause to think about this weekly commemoration of the genesis of the world. It is hard to praise the Creator of a world that can cause such pain, damage, and chaos. While usually it is easy to relate to the wonder of creation, it is hard to deal with the destructive forces of lighting and falling trees.

Later today we will say Kabalat Shabbat and in it we will read:

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to God’s name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, even the Lord upon many waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; yea, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. (Psalms 29 : 2-5)

Why would this destructive God be deserving of our praise? What glory is due? Is there beauty in this destructive force? If God’s voice is so loud, what is the place of my voice?

Later in Kabalat Shabat we read:

The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they shall flourish in the courts of our God.”( Psalms 92: 13-14)

How do we reconcile a God that destroys the very trees that are our righteous?

Earlier in the same Psalm we read:

A Psalm, a Song. For the Shabbat day. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High. To declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness in the night seasons” (Psalm 92:1-3)

How can I bring myself this Shabbat to praise God? I find myself struggling. But I can take a moment to bring praise for the wonderful counselors who are truly the righteous. They are the ones taking care of our children. They are our first respondents. They are the ones giving their gentle voices to comfort those that are frightened. In helping to create the utopia of camp, our counselors emulate the best of the Divine. This deserves our praise. May the memory of Annais Rittenberg z”l be for a blessing. Shabbat Shalom- may it bring us all peace and comfort.

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