I have often wondered, and still wonder, when did G‑d stop talking to us or interacting with us, and why? I think of this often, but especially in relation to the destruction of the temples which He wanted us to build as a home for Him on earth. They were not just structures. We built them because He commanded us to build them, not as just another structure, but as a home for Him on earth! Why then, while many times before He intervened powerfully in many seemingly less important aspects of our lives, yet when the temples were being destroyed, He remained silent. And He still remains silent. Can you tell me why?


The question is one that has bothered Jews since the time we were exiled in Egypt. Even Moses then agonized over the hidden face of G‑d, asking, "Why have you done evil to this people? Why have you sent me?"

Concerning the destruction of the first Temple, here is the passage from the Talmud (Yoma 69b):

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Why were they called Men of the Great Assembly? Because they returned the crown to its original place.

For Moshe declared, "the great, mighty and awesome G‑d."

Along came Jeremiah and said, "Foreigners are dancing in His Temple! Where is His awesomeness?" So he would not call G‑d awesome.

Along came Daniel and said, "Foreigners are oppressing His children! Where is His might?" So he would not call G‑d mighty.

Then they came along and said, "On the contrary, this is the might of His mightiness, that He conquers His desire, for He shows patience to the wicked. And this is His awesomeness, for if not for the awe of the Holy One, blessed be He, how is it possible that a nation is able to endure while absorbed among the nations?"

[And so they instituted that we should say, "the great, mighty and awesome G‑d" in our silent prayer.]

This week, I am teaching my five year old to ride a bike. Right now, she can ride with training wheels, and even then she falls once in a while. I could chase after her and ensure that she would never fall. And I could leave the training wheels on forever. But that is not the purpose. I want her to be able to ride off into the blue, without me. That is what being a father is all about.

G‑d is great because He gives us a world and tells us to fix it. He could have given us a happy, care-bear world and just enjoined us to have fun. But that would not be true kindness and He would not be a father. It would not be our world; it would be nothing more than a playpen we were tossed into. We would have no meaning, and life no value.

So instead, He brought us here, gave us basic directions, held on to us for a while, sending us Moses and the prophets and then the sages, and then eventually, took off the training wheels and let us go.

Nevertheless, in His apparent absence, He is with us more than ever. It's hard to write, because there is so much contradiction, but even in the midst of the most unimaginable horrors, His holy hand could still be seen in miracles. The Rebbe gives as an example the perplexing German loss of the crucial Battle of El Alamein—which saved Palestine from a Nazi purge. There are countless more examples. Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal have just recently published their "Small Miracles of the Holocaust," and the stories are authentic, vivid and haunting. "What a strange G‑d," it makes us think, "that He is there and not there at once."

In our own lives, He remains silent only when we do not know how to listen. If you are waiting for a booming voice from the sky to answer your prayers, you may be like the child who is riding her bike into a wall and waiting for her father to catch and stop her. But if you will look into your own mind and heart which G‑d has given you and the signposts He places all around you, there, if you seek with sincerity, you will surely hear His voice loud and clear—and find the brakes right on time.

In truth, in His absence He and His kindness towards us is found even more than in His presence. That is His greatness and that is His awesomeness.