Saturday, November 10, 2012

Brief Musing from Qohelet - Tears verses Power: Morris Jastrow

Both Job and Koheleth, however, represent the reaction on those who had the courage to face the facts of existence against what had come to be the conventional religious view of a world in which as was assumed goodness and justice must be triumphant, because the supreme Ruler possesses these attributes. The Book of Job in its original form ends in a non liquet, in a practical admission that the problem is insoluble with a faint suggestion, however, as a crumb of comfort, that what may be hidden from us may nevertheless rest on a basis of divine equity. There may be a compensation for innocent suffering, but such a possibility is concealed behind a thick mist through which the human mind cannot penetrate. Koheleth says why try to solve the problem? It will be of no use, for arguments cannot change facts, and the solution, if one could be found, will not mitigate the injustice and suffering in the world. It does not ease Job's pain when suffering the tortures of the damned to be told that it is all a test even if it were true; and it would only increase his misery to become convinced that he must have committed some misdeed, which is certainly not true, for the point is that Job was "God fearing and removed from evil." By all means, believe in a just and merciful Providence if you can, says Koheleth, but be frank enough to recognize that you "cannot fathom the work of God from the beginning to the end" (iii. n). Do not delude yourself with high-sounding phrases that are empty of meaning. The jargon of the pious merely serves to close your eyes to the wrongs that are being done, and to shut your ears against hearing the pitiful cries of those who suffer for no good reason. Tears verses Power—such is the world. 
A Gentle Cynic, Morris Jastrow, Jr. J. B. Lippincott, 1919, 146-7

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