Where is G-d?

By Michael Freund
First published in The Jerusalem Post on May 27, 2010

Yesterday at 11 a.m., air raid sirens sounded across the country. Emergency crews went into position, security forces entered a heightened state of readiness and thousands of people made their way to public shelters.

It was a chilling scene, as schoolchildren were shepherded to safety, and the innocence of our nation’s youth was disrupted by the din of the alarm. Thankfully, it was only a drill.

As Col. Chilik Soffer of the IDF Home Front Command bluntly noted: “Every country trains for emergency scenarios like earthquakes and fires. Here in Israel we train for those as well as for enemy attacks.”

Living in the Middle East, it would appear, like any tough neighborhood, requires taking all sorts of precautions, however unpleasant.

And while the government tried to calm the country’s nerves, assuring us that this exercise was routine and bore no relation to the dire state of the region, it was hard to escape the feeling that something ominous is in the air. Indeed, the headlines of late have been filled with all sorts of warnings and threats, as our foes dispatch daily reminders that their intentions are anything but peaceful.

In the past few days, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad spoke openly of war and embracing the “resistance option,” while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reasserted his determination to bring about Israel’s demise. To our north, Hizbullah is busy rearming, and its thug-in-chief Hassan Nasrallah boldly declared that Israeli commercial and civilian shipping could come under attack.

Meanwhile, to the south, rocket-fire emanating from Gaza resumed, and Palestinian terrorists sought to attack soldiers guarding the frontier. In every direction, it seems, our enemies are gearing up for a war of extermination, each one trying to outdo the other in a frenzy of blood-curdling intimidation.

The arc of iniquity that stretches from Beirut to Damascus, and from there to Teheran and all the way back to Gaza, is not just rattling its saber, but may be getting ready to unsheathe it.

IN THE meantime, our closest ally, the United States, has increasingly turned hostile to us and our interests, badgering us to make still more concessions to the enemies gathering at the gate.

Like it or not, we are very much a nation that is dwelling alone.

In the face of all this, there is a knife-like question piercing through the fog of fear: Where is G-d?

Some might take this as a challenge to divine justice, but that is not what I intend. I am a man of faith, and I believe our deliverance will assuredly come.

What I mean to say is: Where is G-d in our public discourse? Why aren’t we turning to Him in this hour of need?

Sure, diplomacy and military readiness are crucial, and we must continue to invest our efforts in these areas, even as we hope for the best. But the piercing siren sounded yesterday brought to mind the wailing of the shofar on Yom Kippur, penetrating the serene obliviousness that characterizes much of our daily lives. This was a spiritual wake-up call, sounding to arouse us and jolt us into action. We can choose to ignore it, but we do so at our peril.

Each night, our generals and defense officials grace the television screens, insisting that “Israel is strong” and “we are ready.”

I’m glad to hear it and hope it’s true. But as we have seen in the past, overconfidence can breed arrogance, which is a recipe for disaster.

A dash of humility and a healthy dose of faith are just as critical to ensuring success. That’s why I’d like to see our leaders projecting a little less conceit and a lot more conviction.

How refreshing it would be to hear them invoking some reliance on the Almighty and putting G-d back into the national conversation, injecting the sacred into their public discourse – and ours.

This is more than just semantics; it goes to the very heart of the challenges we face. Belief in a higher power and in the justness of our cause is our spiritual ammunition, giving us the strength and determination to turn back any foe.

The great hassidic leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, once asked a student where G-d could be found. The surprised young scholar offered the seemingly obvious answer: Rabbi, He is surely everywhere! “No!” said the Kotzker, with fiery certitude. “G-d is only where we let Him in!”

Now, more than ever, would be the perfect time to do so.

7 comments on “Where is G-d?

  1. Wasn’t this the famous question of Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Heschel? People asked after the Holocaust, “Where was G-d?” Rav Heschel asked instead, “Where was Man?”

  2. Mr. Cohen:

    It seems to me that you have understood the question — “Where is G-d” — very literally, as in: where is the “place” (makom) that He can be found? But this is not the topic raised by Reb Freund at all. Rather, he delineates quite clearly his intent: “What I mean to say is: Where is G-d IN OUR PUBLIC DISCOURSE? Why aren’t we turning to Him in this hour of need?”

    Your quotes are all very nice, but I have difficulty understanding how they address the conundrum raised by the writer. I believe that Reb Freund is bemoaning the fact that too many Israeli’s do NOT recognize King David’s assertion in Tehillim 20:8 (as explicated by Rashi): “Some nations trust in chariots and some trust in horses, be we declare our trust in Hashem our G-d, for He is our salvation.”

    Only when Klal Yisrael recognizes and declares that Hashem is our only source of help, will we be able to prevail over our enemies.

    Rabbi Lazer Brody constantly drives home this theme on his website. Today he has written: “It seems that we’ve spent a lot of time on our national backs lately. Why? Simple. It’s the old stiff-necked mentality that thinks you can be a winner without Hashem. Folks, we can’t fight our way out of a wet paper bag without Hashem. Hashem has us backed up against a wall, because He wants us to realize this basic fact. Yes, beloved brothers and sisters — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, black, white, red and yellow — we’re all in the same boat known as the Holy Land of Israel. Deny the Torah and you deny our right to this tiny but cherished piece of real estate. It’s now time to become winners on a national level and to make Emunas Hashem official Israeli Government policy.”

  3. Dear Beyond BT Fans,

    The topic is: Where is G_d?
    I hope these quick quotes can help to answer that question:

    QUOTE 1:

    Tanach/Bible, Yehoshua/Joshua, chapter 2, verse 11:
    …HASHEM your G_d, is G_d in the heaven above and the earth below.

    NOTE: A physical object cannot be in more than one place at a time.
    Since G_d is in both heaven and earth at the same time, He has no physical body.

    QUOTE 2:

    Bible / Tanach, Proverbs / Mishlei, chapter 15, verse 3:
    The eyes of G_d are in every place, seeing the bad and the good.

    QUOTE 3:

    Midrash Rabah, Seder VaYetze, Parshah 68, Paragraph 9:
    Rabbi Ami taught: The Name of the Holy One Blessed Be He is MAKOM (place), because the universe is inside G_d; G_d is not inside the universe.
    NOTE: This is quoted by Rashi on Shemot, chapter 33, verse 21.

    QUOTE 4:

    Midrash Rabah, Seder Naso, Parshah 12, Paragraph 4:
    There is no place in the world without the Divine Presence.

    NOTE: Some people interpret this as only referring to the Land of Israel,
    but I am not aware of any commentaries that support this interpretation.

    QUOTE 5:

    Rashi on Devarim / Deuteronomy, Parshat Vaetchanan, chapter 5, verse 7:
    IN MY PRESENCE. In any place where I am, and that includes the entire world.

    QUOTE 6:

    Sefer Charedim, Chapter 66, Paragraph 9, page 230 of menukad edition:
    And you, son of man, know that your soul is the dwelling place of G_d, anger and sadness cause Him to flee [from you]…

    QUOTE 7:

    Sefer Charedim, Chapter 66, Paragraph 21, page 232 of menukad edition:
    The main dwelling place of the Divine Presence {Shechinah} is in the minds of Jews.

    QUOTE 8:

    A group of learned men once came to visit the Kotzker Rebbe.
    He asked them: What is the place of G_d’s glory?
    The men responded by quoting from the liturgy:
    The whole world is full of G_d’s glory.
    Rabbi Menachem Mendel gave a different answer:
    G_d’s glory is found wherever we let G_d in.

    SOURCE: Chapter 24, Page 240 of: Everyday Holiness by
    Alan Morinis, 2007, Trumpeter Books, Boston, ISBN 978-1-59030-368-9.
    To receive a variety of quick Jewish Torah quotes, go to:
    and click on: JOIN THIS GROUP.
    For Jewish people ONLY!

  4. Readers who have not seen it, might be interested in the following, written by Dennis Prager, as quoted by R. Yitzchok Adlerstein in his recent Cross-Currents essay entitled: “A National Return to Hashem — A First Step.” It is an appropriate parallel to the present piece by Michael Freund, and, as described by R. Adlerstein, “a brilliant articulation of a message that needs to be brought to our non-observant brethren in Israel” (see Cross-Currents, June 16th, 2010 for the full article):

    “Hundreds of millions of human beings want your country destroyed, some by peaceful means (as if that were possible) and most through genocide… Perhaps you should reconsider your secularism. This is a call for you to take the God of Israel, His Torah and His values seriously. Without God, it is impossible to understand why the Jewish state, of all the countries in the world, is the most hated. And without God, there is no solution.”

  5. The leaders who disappoint us by not speaking of G-d are being true to their secular creed. Until they replace this with the Jewish creed, what exactly should we expect? We have long known what a farcical contradiction a secular Jewish state represents.

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