Sunday, November 22, 2009

The trial of G-d

I was waiting in a doctor's office this week (so what else is new?) and I came upon this story in a yoga magazine. It fascinated me. I found a version of the story online, and I copied excerpts of it here. Turns out the original story is actually a play by Elie Wiesel. The article that I read was very close to the version I've copied here.
Three rabbis, all prisoners in Auschwitz and witnesses to the daily death machine of the Nazis, decided that it was time to place G-d on trial.

They formed a rabbinic court (Bet Din), and conducted the trial completely in accordance with Halakha (Jewish Law). They gathered evidence against G-d, building a strong case against the “Holy One Blessed Be He.” The trial lasted several days, with the judges giving all those who wished a chance to speak their minds. Witnesses were heard, painful personal testimonies were given, and in the end, none of the witnesses even remotely defended God.

It was time to issue a ruling, and the rabbinic court pronounced a unanimous verdict: “The Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth – guilty of crimes against creation, against humanity and against His own Chosen People of Israel.”

Soon after this painful judgment was pronounced, the rabbi presiding over the rabbinic court looked up to the sky, saw that the sun had set, and that the darkness of night was upon the world. This rabbi, who had just indicted G-d and pronounced Him guilty of crimes, looked towards the silenced crowd and said “Come, my friends, we have a minyan – it is time to pray Maariv (the evening prayer service).” The other members of the rabbinic court, together with the witnesses and the onlookers, all gathered around the rabbi to join in their evening prayers to G-d.
This story appeals to me, in all my not-knowingness and all my frustration. The idea of a group of people realizing that G-d has really not done a very good job in the situation of the Holocaust, yet praying to G-d anyway; it's just fascinating, and well, just so Jewish.


Anonymous said...

This story appealed to me so much that I thought Elie Wiesel's play "Trial of G-d" would be amazing and followed your link to Amazon. But here's most of Michael R. Perkins' review:

"...In many ways I was dissapointed. I would have much rather that Wiesel wrote about the trial that he witnessed in Auschwitz rather than placing it in a Ukrainian villege. However, I think he tried and for some reason could not do it. My personal opinion is that the original trial was too painful. So, the play seems to have been inspired by actual events but goes off in another direction entirely. Or does it? I have trouble deciding.

There are many layers to this play - just like the four levels introduced by Bachya ben Asher for the interpretation of scripture: peshat, or "plain meaning"; derash, or "rabbinic aggadah"; derekh hassekhel, or "philosophical"; and sod, or "kabbalistic." The discerning, or knowledgable, reader will find all those levels present in this work. Wiesel is never an easy writer to read or to understand, and this play is no different."

Unknown said...

There was an amazing play similar to this that was on PBS last year. I don't remember what it was called but believe it was from the BBC; was definitely shot in the UK. Definitely worth trying to find. Thanks for your blog!