“In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values” [Wikipedia, emphasis added]


The past several Shabbat Encouragements have discussed the value of life. In “Harambe” we struggled with the killing of the gorilla Harambe in order to save the life of the child. Although animal activists are strongly against keeping animals in captivity, thus creating a set-up for disasters not to mention the effect on the animals, most would agree the situation offered no choice given the threatening actions toward the little boy. Though people could disagree about how this situation could occur in the first place, at least there was some rational common ground. Last week we discussed the preciousness of the life of an ant, of flora and fauna. Maybe extreme to some but again, within rational analysis. The point of both messages was to sensitize us to the preciousness of life from various perspectives.


So how do we go from that space and process rationally the irrational killings in Orlando? Or the shocking alligator snatching of a two year old boy just enjoying vacation with his family? Or the killings in Israel last week? How can the random killing of people just harmlessly having fun line up in our minds with our appreciation for the sanctity of life, the processing further complicated by the terrorism wrinkle of the Orlando shooter? We have been reminding ourselves of the importance of becoming more sensitized to the preciousness of HaShem’s creations. The mass killing of so many cuts our psyches all the more once we have done just that.


Cognitive dissonance occurs when we try to make sense of the senselessness of these competing realities – mass murder and not killing even an insect. As opposed to psychology, however, which tries to create an orderly explanation or courses of action for coping, I would suggest that faith offers quite a different approach. We don’t even try to solve the mystery for it is just that. When one has faith that our Abba has a plan, that evil exists in this world, that He is capable of controlling everything but life is co-created by man’s choices, not just divine power, that sometimes people are victims, they die, and we can’t explain it today or tomorrow but have faith that someday all will be good in HaShem’s time, our cognitive dissonance begins to dissipate.


We live in times that are way out of control. Though I bet in the Middle Ages the ravages of the Black Death felt pretty horrible too. Random, horrific death happens. Each of us experiences the sorrow and grief of our collective human consciousness when such overwhelming tragedies occur. Yet especially at these times we also need to turn even more deeply to our Abba to hold us and remind us that He is still there. That as much as He would like to and can, He will not write man’s history, for His children as a civilization are here to live this tough stuff out and hopefully grow in the process, even if we cannot understand. Having faith in Him reminds us that there will be a day when there is no more suffering and pain, and no more death.


Although we try to embrace the mystery, as humans, we still have choices of ways to cope and to react. Otherwise a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness can work to overtake our faith. We do not have control or influence over the specifics of what went down. We can, however, cherish each day as a gift, reach out with love and compassion to others and, in particular, to those impacted by the tragedy. Love, love, love all the more to dissipate the darkness. As we collectively learn to live by loving our neighbors as ourselves, we as a people will have less dark days. And when the irrational act of one wreaks havoc on so many, we can still be strengthened knowing that love will prevail, ultimately. Faith is what brings us to the place of that reality.


Religion is not the opiate of the masses. Faith is proof that hope is real, that God is real. Yeshua as our Messiah, as the one who walks with our every step, as the one who brings our Abba to us viscerally, is our Protector that makes life livable. He knows our sins, He knows our pain, He loves us unconditionally. In Him we are at peace.


“For to us a child is born,     to us a son is given,     and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

[Isaiah 9:6]


Shabbat shalom.


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  1. Stacey Stevens

    ‘Faith is proof that hope is real, that God is real.’ I agree. I am reminded here of the refrain to Marni Esposito’s song ‘Yad V’Shem’ from her ‘Echad’ CD:

    “I close my eyes at Yad V’Shem

    And picture me as one of them

    How can evil be so real?
    How can human hearts not feel?

    Yet I thank my God and remember…”

    Baruch Goldstein, my beloved rabbi from my conservadox shul during my formative years, wrote a memoir in 2008 while in his mid-eighties, entitled ‘For Decades I Was Silent: A Holocaust Survivior’s Journey Back to Faith’ (University of Alabama Tuscaloosa Press) which chronicles his and his family’s ordeal in Poland at the hands of the Nazi regime. Toward the end of it, he writes about the concept of hester panim (when God hides His face:

    ‘Humans are give the ability and freedom to choose their actions in accordance with their inner motives and ideals. In this sense, I believe that hester panim allows for freedom of choice. As a rule, God does not control our actions. God does not usually interfere in the choices that human beings make, making them responsible for the consequences of their choices. He is a much greater God, allowing people to act in such a way as to realize their full potential by making their own decisions. He expects humans to act humanely of their own free will, and not by His force..by hiding His face, God gives humans the opportunity to realize the diving purpose within each human being. I believe that the future is not a given, and that not everything is predetermined. This is an open word in which human beings can frustrate God’s will or realize it. This is a world in which humans can achieve the ultimate good through inner growth and moral action. Conversely, they can perpetrate great evil. It is the task of humans to live and act in ways that influence the world for good. The two concept are thus interrelated. God hides His face so that we may have freedom of choice…

    …ultimately, I have come to accept that not understanding God’s ways is not a good enough reason for me to reject my belief in God’s existence or to doubt my faith in Him. We really cannot totally depend on our reasoning alone. While living a religious life of belief and faith in God’s goodness, I have become convinced that life without faith is meaningless, lacking in direction and purpose, and potentially empty spiritually. I have been born a Jew and have chose to live with faith and to make the Jewish way of life and Torah and mitzvot my life’s journey. I have become convinced that the Jewish people have no future without faith and tradition, and that the Jewish people have no future without Judaism…’

    May we all likewise choose the path of faith.

    Hugz in HaShem –


  2. Diane Cohen

    Thank you, Stacele, for sharing these profound insights. As Jewish believers in Yeshua, and for all who are in awe of HaShem, we are consoled through the challenging times
    and reminded to choose life, to choose love, to choose Him.

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