This week's parsha
Unless you inhabit one of those idealized marriages of never-faltering sweetness and light, you know that feeling that comes in the aftermath of an argument with a loved one.
Harsh words have been spoken, angry words, accusatory words. The words have stopped because there's nothing left to be said. Instead there is pain and incredulity, but also a peculiar serenity. You realize that there are things about your husband/wife that you will never understand, and that it is best that it is that way, for it cannot be otherwise.
There is not yet forgiveness or acceptance for what has been said and done -- nor, perhaps, will there ever be. But there is something else, something that you have never felt before, at least not quite this way: a sense of trust. Your mind may be too angry or too numb to know, but your blood knows, your bones know, that now matter how wrenching the pain, no matter how agonizing the incomprehension, there remains your faith in each other, in your togetherness, in your joined future.
This is the mood that pervades the aftermath of the Torah reading of Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1). In Shemot's closing verses, Moses, the quintessential Jewish leader, rails against the suffering of his people: "Why have You done bad to this people?" he cried out to G‑d. "Why did You send me? From the time that I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made thing worse for this people, and You did nothing to save them!" G‑d's response is equally harsh, rebuking, even punishing Moses for his outcry.
In the wake of their confrontation come the opening words of the following reading, Vaeira. There is no explicit answer to Moses' cry, no attempt to quell his terrible words. Instead there is a reiteration of the foundations of the marriage between G‑d and His people: the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the guarantee of imminent redemption. Things have happened in this marriage that we cannot understand or accept, at least not with our rational minds; but the bond holds true.
To be a Jew today, at the present juncture of our history, is to experience something akin to what Moses experiences at the juncture of Shemot and Vaeira. Just when all our dreams are on the verge of fulfillment, everything seems to be falling apart. Clouds of black despair darken our heavens, and we cry in helpless rage: Why is this happening to us? Why are we doing this to ourselves?
It is in such times that the elemental essence of our bond with G‑d is unearthed. A soothing peace wells up within our agitated souls: we realize that we trust Him.