Shaya Cohen -


When Does G-d Give Up on Us?

The G-d of the Jews, the G-d of the Torah, is not infinitely patient or merciful. He does not love us “no matter what.” Indeed, when men simply take the women that they want (Gen 6:2), G-d shortens man’s lifespan so that men would be forced to value women as more than just a way to scratch an itch. When men persist in pursuing evil, G-d regrets having made mankind at all. This culminates in the flood, a rebooting of the world when it became clear that G-d’s initial plan has run into a brick wall. G-d gives up on the whole world, and unsentimentally killed it off. A scientist would call that a failed experiment.

Eventually there are people who seek to connect with G-d, and we are promised that He won’t bring any other apocalpytic events. It is clear that G-d seeks a connection. But it is also clear that the offer of G-d’s involvement in our lives is not automatic: when people do evil, then they are spiritually cut off, and sometimes lose their land (as the Canaanites do to the Jews). But there is more than this, something which speak to us even more today: when people despair, then G-d does, too.

There are numerous words in the Torah for crying out. The most common is “Za-ak/Tza-ak,” which is a cry for a purpose. Esau’s cry when he discovers his brother has stolen his blessing is immediately followed by a request for his own blessing. The word can also take on the meaning of a prayer, such as when Moses prays for his sister, Miriam to recover. “You must not mistreat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat him, when he cries out to Me, I will indeed hear his cry [kol].” Ex. 22:22 This word has strong emotions, and it is heard by G-d.

G-d also hears our voices or cries, with the Hebrew word “kol.” It is Abel’s blood that “cries” out to G-d from the earth, causing G-d to confront Cain.

Not so every expression. The other common word for “crying” in the Torah has “B-Ch” as its root (“ch” in Hebrew is pronounced like the end of “loch”, not like the “ch” in “to b-tch”, even though it would make my argument more entertaining). But when someone cries in this way, then it is not a prayer or a request. It is, instead, an expression of despair, of complaining for its own sake. In the Torah, G-d never positively responds to this human expression of emotion. (Num 11:10, 11:13, 25:6, etc.). When the people despair, G-d openly considers exterminating them. People who see themselves as hapless victims earn no divine mercy.

The first example of this word in the Torah is found when Hagar is sent away with her son (Gen. 21:14-16).

She wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears.

G-d responds. But not to her! Her cries are of despair. She has given up. Clearly G-d has no patience for mankind when we give up. Instead, the very next verse says:

God heard the cry (“kol”) of the boy, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is.

It is clear that G-d had not heeded her cry, just that of her son. If Hagar had been alone, she would have perished. The voice of her son, on the other hand, was not despairing, and so G-d answered it.

Our mindsets matter. As long as we keep striving, G-d will work with us. When we quit, just sit down and cry, losing all hope in the future, then G-d will give up on us as well.

“of renown” in Genesis take women just because they can, G-d regrets having imbued man with his divine spirit.

In the Torah, G-d gives up when we do. There is a special word for “despair” in the Torah, though it is sometimes translated as “in tears” or “crying out.”

וְהִנֵּ֡ה אִישׁ֩ מִבְּנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל בָּ֗א וַיַּקְרֵ֤ב אֶל־אֶחָיו֙ אֶת־הַמִּדְיָנִ֔ית לְעֵינֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה וּלְעֵינֵ֖י כׇּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְהֵ֣מָּה בֹכִ֔ים פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃ While they were gathering to execute judgment, a prince in Israel came and brought a Midianite women before his brethren, even in the presence of Moses, and in the presence of the entire community of the Children of Israel, while they were still weeping in despair over the plague at the entrance of the Tent of Assembly.

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