I was saddened by the recent death of an 8 year old boy in Brooklyn. What has come to light is the statement by a religious leader that the boy's death was the result of (and I'm being vague on the nature of the connection) NY State's decision to legalize gay marriage and the lack of protest from within the Orthodox Jewish community.
Side note -- I'm not discussing the propriety of gay marriage, nor am I discussing homosexuality in general. That's not what this is about.
I read some articles and the comments from people about this public statement and I wanted to put a few ideas down on virtual paper about it.
Let's say that god uses earthly events as a result and response to human events that he doesn't like.
Let's say that god holds the Jewish community responsible for not protesting a law passed by the secular state.
Let's say that it was our job to try and make connections between events and learn god's will through them.
Let's say that we could make these connections and claim therefore to know what god intends.
I still don't get it. And I have tried. I have tried to find what could come out of this in a spiritual sense or what reason in the divine master plan this tragedy could have. But I don't see it.
I haven't checked the newspaper, but on that day, I'm sure that there were a number of other deaths in the community and all around New York. In fact, I'm sure that in some Jewish community, on that day, someone died in a way that relatives and friends would consider tragic. Can we know which particular death is the one god wanted us to learn a lesson from?
I also haven't checked, but I have no doubt that there were other news events taking place around then and I'm sure that some ran against the norms of the Jewish community. How do we know which news item was the trigger that god wants us to rail against?
Also, assuming that this was an issue connected to gay marriage, wouldn't it have made sense for something in the "lesson" to be related to gay marriage? The innocent child had nothing to do with it, nor did his parents. Even his abductor and killer had been in hetero-marriages twice already. How does anyone decide that there is a link?
Ignoring that same sex marriages have been around on the practical level for over 5 years and have been a legislative issue since 2007, the newest legislation passed on June 24th, 2 weeks before the unfortunate events in Brooklyn. is there a statute of limitations on these things? Will a sad event next week be god's response to en event from 2 years ago? How can we know?
Similar claims have been made about the Haitian earthquake and the Japanese tsunami -- they are the result of an acceptance of a certain problematic way of thinking or acting. But there the response is on a large scale. Here a single victim is supposed to point out a greater societal ill?
Now, I know that there are movements within Judaism to explain tragedies and tie them to behaviors or a failing in the greater group. Prophetic texts warn of horrible events as results of the people's misbehavior. Of course, then, the religious leader pointing this out should have warned us clearly before hand if he wanted to be taken seriously. Additionally, the Rabbinic sources try to create a link between the events and the nature of the ill.
Does this mean that this boy's death should teach us nothing? Absolutely not. And if his death causes us as a group to be introspective about all of our own misdeeds, and yes, even about our response to secular legislation, then so be it. Every man's death should sadden us and wake us up to the need to be better at who we are and even, how we make our voices heard on issues which should concern us. But to make a direct and absolute causal link smacks of arrogance and insensitivity.