Historical Coincidences My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew

Kavod — The Most Peculiar Word in Biblical Hebrew

Link to podcast-audio:

“Kavod – the most peculiar word in biblical Hebrew” (Podcast-audio)

Kavod in modern Hebrew means honor, respect or glory. A person may show Kavod to his fellow human being, and a military medal of honor, bestowed unto a military service person, is a medal of Kavod (Ot Kavod).

The word appears in the Jewish Bible no less than 199 times. Numerous times it appears therein in the same sense as in modern spoken Hebrew. Examples:

  • “Akhan, My son, give, I pray thee, respect to Jehovah, God of Israel..” (Joshua 7:19);
  • “And on that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob shall fade..” (Isaiah 17:4);
  • “The Heavens declare the glory of God..” (Psalms 19:2).

Yet, this is only one sense with which Kavod appears in the Bible and it is not the most frequent one. A more frequent usage does not relate at all to the created giving glory to the Creator. Rather, it relates to Kavod as intrinsically linked to the Divine. And here we encounter the impossible combination of words:

Jehovah’s Kavod.

What does that mean?

Jewish bible interpreters have attempted, throughout the ages, to impart plausible meaning to this bizarre idiom; however, they have always relied on the traditional sense of “honor” or “respect” or “glory”. In most Bible translations (from biblical Hebrew), “Jehovah’s Kavod” translates into “Jehovah’s glory”.

As we shall soon realize, all those interpretations fall short of satisfactorily explaining most usages of this combination of words in the Jewish Hebrew Bible.

Thus, we are left helpless figuring out and imparting any sensible meaning to this bizarre expression; That is, until we scrutinize instances where it appears, and try to integrate these with scientific knowledge we currently possess about the universe. Once we do that, stunning amazement and deep appreciation for Jehovah’s Kavod follows.

Let us start with a few examples:

  • When Moses expresses desire to learn of Jehovah’s ways in leading His world, he asks: “Please show me Kevodcha” (“Your Kavod”). The Divine response: “..I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And He said, thou cannot see my face for no man shall see me and live” (Exodus 33:18-20);
  • Prophet Isaiah explains why the world exists (seemingly the only time the Bible relates so explicitly to this question): “All that can be named, by My Name and for my Kavod I have created it, I have formed it, I have even made it” (Isaiah 43:7);
  • Prophet Isaiah delivers an account of his vision, hearing the Seraphim crying to each other, saying: “…Holy , Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his Kavod” (Isaiah 6:3).

How can we settle the first example with the last, while they seem so much at odds and unrelated to one another?

In the first example, Moses obviously requests to learn how the Divine is leading His world. While the response Moses gets is unsatisfactory (“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious”), the Divine response affirms that what Moses really desired in his request (“Show me your Kavod”) is to learn the ways by which God is leading His world. No reference whatsoever to God’s glory, as the latter is seemingly implied by the last example!!

Jewish tradition makes a reasonable distinction between two types of Divine leadership of the universe: By Law-of-Nature and by Divine Intervention (often explicitly expressed on a personal level as Divine Providence, or Hashgachah Pratit).

The former, Law-of-Nature, relates to the Ten Divine “sayings” of Genesis Creation narrative (Genesis 1). Later, after Noah’s flood, God re-assures humankind that Law-of-Nature exists and that it is ever-lasting: “While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night would not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

The latter, Divine Intervention, relates to divine intervention in the world to exercise a system of justice: “..Would not the Judge of all the earth do Justice?” (Gen. 18:25). However, this Divine intervention is mitigated by Divine graciousness and mercy, as the former quote of God’s response to Moses has shown. Furthermore, leadership by Divine intervention is not restricted to the confines of Law-of-Nature; Occasionally, it operates contrary to Law-of-Nature, as the Ten plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:20-12:30) testify.

Let us assume that indeed Jehovah’s Kavod is an overall term for the two basic Divine leaderships of the universe: By Law-of-Nature and by Divine intervention.

Is there indication for Law-of-Nature in Jehovah’s Kavod?

Is there indication for Divine intervention (or Divine moral code) in Jehovah’s Kavod?

Expressed differently: Can one find evidence, within the term itself, that Jehovah’s Kavod indeed represents the double-faceted Divine leadership of the world?

Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding YES.

Let us address the former first. As quoted earlier, prophet Isaiah describes his vision of Seraphim crying to each other, saying: “the whole Eretz is full of his Kavod.” (Isaiah 6:3). However, as addressed in my book (Section 14.1, p. 201), Eretz (earth in biblical Hebrew) implies either “world” or “Earth”. Given current scientific knowledge, we may therefore re-translate Isaiah thus: “..Holy , Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole universe is permeated with his Kavod.” (Isaiah 6:3).

Is there any hint in Jehovah’s Kavod for Law-of-Nature, something that, by modern science, permeates the whole universe?

We can think of one answer only:

The gravitation force!! (in modern spoken Hebrew, force of Kevidah).

By Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the gravitation field, generated by any celestial mass (like galaxies and stars), determines the most fundamental properties of the four-dimensional space-time, as we experience it in daily life and as we observe throughout the universe via astronomy, aided by scientific theory (Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, with succeeding derivatives up to the present Super-string theory). There is indeed nothing else that we can state permeates the whole universe.

And how do we, mere Earth-bound mortals, experience gravitation force?

By feeling that every physical object, large and small, is heavy, carries weight. We nowadays are aware that this sensation of physical articles being heavy is due to gravitation force. That is how we experience it in our every-day life. Additionally, by modern science, we have learned that the gravitation force (indeed gravitational field) determines the fundamental properties of the four-dimensional space-time continuum, in which we live, and the gravitational field indeed permeates the whole universe.


  • If Jehovah’s Kavod expresses modes of Divine leadership of the universe (as Moses used the term in his request to God, “Show me thy Kavod”);
  • And if one of the two modes of leadership, by Jewish tradition, is Law-of-Nature;
  • And if per modern science, the most central and fundamental force-of-nature to determine the basic properties of the space-time continuum, permeating the whole universe, is the gravitation force;

Given all that, does Jehovah’s Kavod in any way points to the gravitational force???

Amazingly, Biblical Hebrew makes the impossible and implausible link between two utterly non-related concepts: Jehovah’s presence in the world via Law-of-Nature, and the most basic force of the universe, the most influential on observed Law-of-Nature, only known by modern science— the gravitation force.

Heavy, in biblical Hebrew, is Kaved (same root as Kavod, implausible as this may sound). Examples (altogether 41 instances of Kaved in the Bible imply heavy):

“Behold, tomorrow about this time I will rain heavy hail, the like of which has not been in Egypt since its foundation until now” (Exodus 9:18,24);

“And now my father had burdened you with a heavy yoke and I will add to your yoke..” (1 Kings 12:11).

We finally address the second question, put forward earlier:

Is Jehovah’s Kavod also indicative of Jehovah’s leadership via Divine intervention, imposing the set of moral Divine commandments via a system of justice operating within the confines of free-will?

The answer is similar to that for the previous question: As Jehovah’s Kavod indicates a major Law-of-Nature (Gravitation Law), so it hints at a major Divine commandment, the fifth commandment, which starts with Kabed (meaning honor):

Kabed thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

We summarize:

  • Jehovah’s Kavod, mostly wrongly interpreted to-date as Jehovah’s glory, has been shown in this post to really mean, consistent with Jewish tradition, Jehovah’s double-faceted leadership of the universe;
  • It is completely incomprehensible why biblical Hebrew should link “glory” with… ”heavy” (as both derive from same linguistic root);
  • Aided by modern science, and pursuing the new interpretation of Jehovah’s Kavod, an incredible link has been established between Kavod and Kaved (both emanating from same biblical Hebrew root);
  • Consistent with the new interpretation, Jehovah’s Kavod is appropriately indicative of both force of gravity (leadership by Law-of-Nature) and of the Ten Commandments (leadership by Divine intervention).

Personal confession: Mind boggling…


Comment [1]  (added April 28, 2019): The three-letter Hebrew root of Kavod (and related words) is “כ.ב.ד” (K.B.D). The gematria value of this root is the same as Jehovah (26). This is perhaps further evidence that Kavod in biblical Hebrew is indeed a general term for all modes by which the Divine manifests its presence in the world.

Comment [2] (added June, 17, 2020): The Coronavirus pandemic, denoted by WHO (World Health Organiztion) — COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease-2019), is indicative of, sounds like — Kavod (a stunning insight by Avinoam Ben-Mordechai); Read a separate post about the pandemic here.

Comment [3] (added June, 19, 2020): In the most prominent biblical demonstration of Divine intervention in the affairs of humankind (Divine leadership, Kavod), the Ten Plagues of Egypt, the word Kavod, with variations, appears Ten Times (within only three chapters!). Five times the word describes, as adjective, four of the plagues (“natural” disasters), stating that they were “heavy”; the other five times, Kavod describes Pharaoh’s “heavy” heart, refusing “Let My People Go”. Here is the list in Exodus (Chapter: Verse):

{ (8:11), (8:20), (8:28), (9:3), (9:7), (9:18), (9:24), (9:34), (10:1), (10:14) }.

My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew

First, Ten “Says” (Creation); Then Ten “Acts” (of Divine Intervention); Finally, Ten “Speaks” (Commandments)

Biblical Hebrew offers a fundamental distinction between “Say” and “Speak”. The difference put them worlds apart:

  • In “Say” one sends a message in one direction; There is no expectation of a response. “Say” implies sending contents that no doubt will be accepted (by listeners) or implemented. Kings and absolute rulers “Say”. They do not speak. An example: “And God said let there be light and there was light” (Genesis 1:3);
  • In “Speak” one sends contents in expectation of a dialogue with the receiver of the message. “Speak” implies an expectation of a listener that reacts and responds. An example: “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am Jehovah” (Exodus 6:2). One wonders why the repetition of “Speak” and “Say”. But there is no redundancy. First— a message is sent to the reader that God started a dialogue with Moses. Then the message itself is said by the supreme ruler.

A byproduct of this distinction, an expression of the unique role of “speak” in biblical Hebrew, is Davar (thing). The latter derives from same root as “speak”. This sends a powerful message that every “thing” in the universe is intended to speak to us. Nothing is “message-less”. All have meaning. And that message speaks unto anyone who wishes to listen and maintains a constructive dialogue with the world and all that it contains. A good example is God Jehovah forming “out of the ground” “every beast of the field and every bird of the air” (Genesis 2:19), bringing them to Adam “to see what he would call them and whatever the man called every living creature that was its name” (Genesis 2:19). Thus, names are not senseless combination of letters but rather expressions of the essence of that which is named. And same goes to every Davar in the universe, defined by a certain combination of letters in biblical Hebrew.

Having elaborated on the distinction between “Say” and “Speak”, one may monitor the evolution of the dialogue of the Divine with mankind. Witnessing the different forces of nature and their seemingly unpredictability (for example, the seemingly random trajectories of the stars in the sky), ancient generations had no choice but to believe that they are helpless living creatures under the control of forces that they cannot understand or maintain dialogue with. The main message of the Torah is that this perception is fundamentally flawed, and it gives a timeline for the evolution from an “incomprehensible world” to a world, the creator of which wishes to listen and to respond.

Certain time-points mark the transition from the one to the other. First, Jehovah God calls unto Adam “Where are thou? (Genesis 3:9). But Adam prefers to hide and not to maintain a dialogue with the Divine because Adam, like most humanity nowadays, does not like anyone to tell him what he is allowed to do and what he is allowed not. This led to a perception of the world as rule-less, in ancient times, or as intervention-less (by the Divine), and ruled only by the mathematical laws of nature, as revealed to us by modern science. But in truth, nothing has fundamentally changed in the basic condition of humankind: Only the randomness of a chaotic world, as perceived by our ancestors, has been replaced by a rule-full world, as described by modern science. But with non-explainable randomness notwithstanding, randomness of a different sort. Seemingly randomness of the observed world of ancient times has been replaced by the inexplicable randomness of current laws of science. For example: The phenomenon of the constant speed of light, as well as the very value of the latter, both remain as mysterious and as random and inexplicable today as were directly observed natural phenomena of ancient times. Seemingly randomness has migrated from the directly observable natural phenomena to the non-observable, but just as random and inexplicable, laws of nature, as articulated by modern science.

To demonstrate to the struggling human species that not all is indeed random and that there is a monitoring authority that is not subject to laws of nature, yet wishes to start a dialogue with us, human beings, the ten plagues of Egypt were initiated and carried out by messengers of the Divine, Moses and his older brother Aaron (starting at Exodus 7:20). The ten interventions of the Divine, as unfolding in Exodus, were meant by Torah to send a single message— The Divine is maintaining a dialogue with us, mere mortals. If only we listen. This dialogue is succinctly summarized in Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:12):

“And he dreamed and behold a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it”.

We are reminded that in biblical Hebrew “angel” is malach, namely, a messenger whose only function is to carry a message or carry out a message. For example: “But there came a messenger (“Malach”) to Shaul, saying, “Make haste and come, for the Philistines are raiding the land” (1 Samuel 23:27).

This lends Jacob’s dream a whole new interpretation: Every human being sends messages to Heaven of his/her wishes and desires. Most often, these messages are not expressed explicitly, but at times they do (as in prayer). These messages are “processed” and sent back down to Earth in corresponding Divine messages, to be executed by “descending messengers of God”.

How does Torah make explicit this dream, making clear that the dialogue between Heaven and Earth is a living reality?

By showing that the Divine intervenes in all that occurs on planet Earth, at times even via violating laws of nature.

This had occurred with the ten plagues of Egypt. And to Pharaoh, who had initially stated “Who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2), ten Divine interventions sent a clear message, causing Pharaoh to change his stance:

  • First, acknowledging Jehovah as a judge of the Earth (“..I have sinned this time: Jehovah is righteous and I and my people are wicked”; Exodus 9:27);
  • Eventually, by letting Israel go out of Egypt to worship their Jehovah God, but with a little request: “..Rise up and get you out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel and go serve Jehovah, as you have said, ..and be gone and bless me also” (Exodus 12:31-32).

The ten Divine interventions in Egypt had started, indeed made possible, the process of a dialogue between heavens and earth. Now ten Divine “says” of creation, of the first chapter of Genesis, followed by the Divine seeking a dialogue with humankind (“Where are thou?”), then ten interventions demonstrating that the Divine is not subject to the rule of nature, eventually culminating in ten Divine “speaks”, as manifested in the Ten Commandments:

“And God spoke all these things (Dvarim), saying: “I am Jehovah thy God, who has brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slaves; Thou shall have no other gods beside me.” (Exodus 20:1-3)..”..Thou shall not murder   Thou shall not commit adultery   Thou shall not steal   Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:13).


Shorty*: Anger — Best Opportunity to Transition from “I-It” to “I-Thou”

Introspection of what is occurring within us as we become angry with one we care about delivers best possible opportunity to move from perceiving others as “It” to a corrected perception as “Thou”; Moving from perceiving the not-me as “Ego-Other” to a corrected perception as “Non-Ego Other“.

Some terms in the opening paragraph needs explanation and for that I relate to the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965 ), whose philosophy revolves around two fundamental concepts describing how one may relate to all that surround him/her: “You” (Ata/At) and “That One” (Ha-Laz); Or, in Buber’s terminology, two types of relationships between “I” and the external world:

I-Thou” and “I-It”.

Since my twin concepts, “Ego-Other” and “Non-Ego Other”, somewhat overlap with those of Buber, I would first explain the two pairs of concepts and then relate to how extremely instrumental they are regarding Tikun (“Correction”), achievable when we become angry with someone we care about; And then, by extension, the Tikun that may prevail in all of our relations with other human beings, including perhaps even those that we “do not so much care about”, namely, total strangers.

Buber distinguishes between two modes of relating to the world around us—  “You” and “That One” (in Buber’s parlance, “Thou” and “It”), and he had repeated this distinction on numerous occasions. To understand it more deeply perhaps it is best to quote from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource):

Martin Buber “is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou” and “I-It” modes of existence…In his later essays, he defines man as the being who faces an “other” and constructs a world from the dual acts of distancing and relating.”  Buber’s philosophy “is based on a distinction between two word-pairs that designate two basic modes of existence: “I-Thou” (Ich-Du) and “I-It” (Ich-Es). The “I-Thou” relation is the pure encounter of one’s whole unique entity with another in such a way that the other is known without being subsumed under a universal. Not yet subject to classification or limitation, the “Thou” is not reducible to spatial or temporal characteristics. In contrast to this, the “I-It” relation is driven by categories of “same” and “different” and focuses on universal definition. An “I-It” relation experiences a detached thing, fixed in space and time, while an “I-Thou” relation participates in the dynamic, living process of an “other”… Buber characterizes “I-Thou” relations as “dialogical” and “I-It” relations as “monological.” In his 1929 essay “Dialogue,” Buber explains that monologue is not just a turning away from the other but also a turning back on oneself (Rückbiegung). To perceive the other as an “It” is to take others as classified and hence predictable and manipulable, objects that exist only as part of one’s own experiences. In contrast, in an “I-Thou” relation both participants exist as polarities of relation, whose center lies in the between (Zwischen).”

The concept of the dual relations, “I-Thou” versus “I-It”, is not much different from the dual concept introduced by me in explaining the underlying Five Principles of the Ten Commandments: A “Non-Ego Other” and an “Ego-Other”. Therein I wrote, explaining the meaning of these complementary terms (as used throughout the post):

“To understand the concept of “Non-Ego Other”, it is perhaps best to define the opposite. An “Ego other” is a human being whom one considers an extension of his/her own ego. The epitome for an “Ego other” is a slave. However, “Ego other” may appear in more obscure forms, where the potential exists, like a personal assistant, a subordinate (at work), one’s own child or a spouse. All forms of “Ego other” are morally wrong.”

To merge together the above two definitions of the dual-relation that exists in all forms of our relating to the outside world (human beings included), we summarize it as follows:

  • One may relate to another human being as equal to one’s own self. In that case, you perceive the other as whole human being, “Thou” or “Non-Ego Other”, who is deserving of all privileges deemed as inalienable rights to your own self. Two chief consequences of that relationship are “Love thy neighbor as yourself” and “Do not do unto others that which is hateful to you”;
  • Or one may alternatively relate to another human being as extension of the ego in the sense that, as we use our hands and legs and voice and other parts of the body to achieve various goals that satisfy the ego, we likewise use other human beings for same purpose. The “Ego-Other” then becomes part of the inventory of means and ways available to the ego to achieve its goals. In that relationship, the “I” is detached from “You”, who then becomes “It”; And the “Non-Ego Other” becomes an ”Ego-Other”.

The best time to witness the two relations co-exist, co-habituate though in the process of replacing one by the other, is when we become angry with one we care about. This is the best time, indeed an opportunity, to realize the difference between “You” and “It”, “Non-Ego Other” vs. “Ego-Other”, so that we may practice, from within ourselves, to eliminate, in each pair, the latter for the former.

What happens to us when we become angry with someone we care about?

First: Detachment. We emotionally detach ourselves from our partner to an “I-You” dialogue so that a replacement, an “I-It” monologue, takes its place. Once detachment is achieved, a process characteristic to “I-It” relation starts: We label, we classify, we become alienated from the “It” while comparing it to other “It”s, and we start considering means and ways to achieve the ego’s objectives against the one who, just a moment prior, has served as “You” in an “I-You” dialogue. The partner to that dialogue, the former “Non-Ego Other”, suddenly becomes an “Ego-Other”, a subject to the ego’s desires through which to achieve its goals (probably of an aggressive nature).

Needless to assert, once again, that a Tikun starts to take place when we eliminate from our inventory of modes of relating to others the “You-It” relationship, the “Ego-Other” perception of our partner to communication and the subject to our responses; And the Tikun is completed once we revoke “I-You” relations with all living entities surrounding us so that only “I-You” relation exists; and only a “Non-Ego Other” is experienced by us in relating to others, and in determining our responses to all forms of communication received by us.

Experiencing the transformation that takes place within ourselves as we transition from a state of “I-You” to a state of “I-It”, from feeling equal to the* “Non-Ego Other” to experiencing the other as an* “Ego Other” (a legitimate target for the ego’s goals), this experience constitutes best opportunity for a personal transformation.

And that transformation may be achieved when, and if, we witness with wide-open eyes the two sorts of relations, the “I-Thou” and the “I-It”, as within ourselves the latter suddenly start replacing the former when we suddenly become angry.


* A widely-known joke about British males is that when British husbands relate to their wives they would utter “The wife”, but otherwise it is “My car”. An excellent opportunity for Tikun..

I do not take responsibility for the authenticity and truth of that joke. However, I can personally bear witness for some grain of truth in it as I once realized, watching on TV an interview with a Royal Navy officer that had served far away from home and asked what he missed most…


*Shorty is a short post

My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Shorties

Shorty*: What Ultimately Comforted Job?

Job feels he is righteous and has done no harm. Why bad things happen to good people?? What ultimately gives Job comfort?

The first of the Ten Commandments reads:

I am Jehovah, your Elohim, who have brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, of the house of slaves” (Exodus 20:2).

This commandment looks more like a declaration:

  • There is God;
  • There is Divine Providence (Hashgacha Pratit: “For His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He sees all his goings”, Job 33:21).

What then transforms this “declaration of facts”, “description of reality”, into a commandment?

“Why bad things happen to good people” is an ancient quandary that has occupied the minds of thinking people for millennia. We have likewise addressed this issue in this post. As related therein, perhaps the ultimate source to address this issue is the biblical book of Job, not coincidentally attributed to Moses. The story of Job is well known:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Furthermore, he had a family and much property so that “…this man was the greatest of all the men of the East” (Job 1:3).

Alas, one day the angels came before Jehovah, among them Satan, and the latter challenged the Divine that Job is “blameless and upright and fears God and shuns evil” (as described by God; Job 1:8) only because Job was protected and blessed by God (Job 1:9-10). God then delivers Satan the permission to harm Job any way he wished (“all that he has is in thy power”) except for taking Job’s soul (Job 1:12). Thus, Satan was allowed by God to test Job so that all may realize whether Job, despite all “bad things” that had befallen him, remained faithful to his former self.

Following description of the “bad things”, three of Job’s friends come to visit him “to mourn with him and to comfort him” (Job 2:11). The multi-sided dialogue that then develops, between Job and his friends, is in essence a debate on whether “Bad things happen to good people”. Job holds on to his basic conviction that he is “blameless and upright and fears God and shuns evil” and therefore he is helpless to explain all the harm that has befallen him. The friends defy this claim and elaborate on why it is illogical and impossible to assume that the perfect God would allow this to happen, therefore concluding that Job probably is not “blameless”, as he pretends to be.

Job remains unconvinced and therefore also uncomforted.

What then ultimately comforted Job?

Throughout Scripture, a single theme keeps resurfacing: “The ways by which Jehovah leads his world are unknown to us and therefore humanly unexplainable”.


  • I will be Whoever I will be” (Exodus 3:14)
  • I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19)
  • And Moses said to Jehovah…show me thy way that I may know thee” (Exodus 33:12-13), and Jehovah said “you cannot see my face for no man shall see me and live...” (Exodus 33:20); Therefore, “thou shall see my back and my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:23). Re-phrased: One may witness the results of Divine leadership and intervention in the world; these, however, cannot be explained (predicted) in advance, neither can they be explained post-factum. These results remain only to be witnessed!

The debate between Job and his friends comes to an abrupt conclusion when Jehovah intervenes in the debate. The essence of God’s explanation for “Why bad things happen to good people” is a genuine mystery:

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4)

Obviously, this does not constitute a satisfactory answer to the basic question. Surprisingly, Job is now comforted and he expresses this explicitly:

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now that my eye has seen you I abhor myself and am comforted for the dust and ashes” (Job 42:5).

(Note that “dust and ashes” are signs of mourning, as mentioned early on in Job 2:12.)

Job had not received an answer to the basic question “Why bad things happen to good people”. Yet, once God has spoken to him, Job is comforted. He understands that there is Divine Providence and there is no more room for the basic question— silence is the right response (“..and Aharon kept his silence”, Leviticus 10:3).

We, mere mortals, are not privileged as was Job. We are “doomed” to exist in a universe of free will, and the latter cannot co-exist with the certainty that God exists and that there is Divine Providence. Either we have free will or we know for certain that God exists. Both, by definition, cannot co-exist. Job, once being exposed to God speaking to him, is no more a man of free will. We are.

The first of the Ten Commandments, outwardly looking like a mere declaration of facts, is in fact a commandment that demands of us the ultimate expression of free-will:

“Out of free will I accept as faithful description of reality existence of Elohim-Jehovah; Out of free will I accept as faithful description of reality existence of Divine Providence (Hashgacha Pratit)”.


*Shorty is a short post