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I Have Failed, Part 1

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroMay 01, 2012
Grow

I’m grading papers this week. One assignment in my Bible class was to rewrite the end of the Book of Job beginning with the premise that God actually tells Job the truth about Job’s suffering: that it was the result of a wager God made with the Devil to see how much punishment and horror Job could endure before losing faith in God.  In the Bible, God never fesses up to Job about this bet.

Some students were wary of rewriting the Bible, but I was pleased that everyone gave it a shot. What troubles me is this: even after admitting the truth that God is responsible for the murder of Job’s children and servants, the theft of his livestock, and the torture of Job himself just to see what would happen (even though an all-knowing God would presumably know in advance what would happen), most of my students refused to blame God at all.

Some did allow Job to get angry with God, but very few allowed Job’s anger to take hold of them personally. Almost to a person, they found a way of excusing God’s behavior, and making it morally sound, ethically right, and even instructional for Job and those of us who read his story.

It seems that there is no horror God can command or commit that will shake the faith of true believers. This may not be shocking, but it should be sobering: as long as we excuse and commend God’s evil we will most likely collude in the commission of that evil.

What I wanted was for some, at least a few, to say this, “If this is God, then I will rebel against him.” I don’t want to deny this God, I want to rebel against Him. While there is much one can say about Job that is positive, he isn’t a rebel. But the reason he isn’t a rebel is that he is never told the truth. I wanted my students to tell Job the truth and make him a rebel and perhaps to rebel themselves. But this didn’t happen.

After months of analyzing the Bible, placing it in its historical context, and wrestling with its often-contradictory teachings, to have the vast majority of students blithely excuse the shadow side of God and defend the evil that comes from it, I cannot escape the notion that I have failed my students, and failed them miserably. And I despair of the world they will create, a world filled with evil done in the name of the God they call Love.


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Author and teacher Rabbi Rami Shapiro will lead “Walking Without, Journeying Within”—a trip to the Holy Land with S&H in fall 2018.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is The World Wisdom Bible.

He has this to say about religion: "To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence."

To comment on this installment of One For the Road or submit a question, email the editors. Questions may be edited for length and clarity; all are published anonymously.

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This entry is tagged with:
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