We cannot see love, but we know what it can do. We cannot see the wind, but we recognise its effects.
What is our problem in the post-Holocaust twenty-first century?
Like humans throughout history we would dearly love to believe, but we are baffled at the way He runs His universe.
Before the Second World War, CEM Joad was an agnostic. If asked, “Do you believe in God?”, his answer was, “No, because we cannot be certain, and because there is much in life, like the prevalence of evil, which argues against it.”
After the war he said the simple truth was that you simply cannot help yourself and you have to believe. Precisely because of the existence of evil, to have to rely on your own resources to overcome it would be, he confessed, a greater burden than we can bear.
The only way to defend our world against evil is to have a God to whom to communicate our distress and from Him can come strength and comfort to aid us in coping with the world.
Someone has said that belief in God gives you rest – and unrest.
It gives you rest – faith, trust, peace of mind, serenity, optimism, meaning, assurance, enhancement of life, redemption.
It also gives you unrest – dissatisfaction with yourself and the world, indignation at the cheap, the tawdry, the false, the hollow, the untrue, unjust and intolerable, the determination to defy that which is wrong and smash the false gods and try to build a better world.
To believe in Him is terrible – and wonderful.
In the Torah, Yom Kippur is called Yom HaKippurim, not the Day of Atonement but, literally, the Day of Atonements.
Atonement, as an English word, comes from the two smaller words “at” and “one”. To atone is to be at one with our God.
The Zohar explains the idea of Yom HaKippurim like this: on this day there are two streams of love, from God to man, from man to God. You might even borrow two book titles from the writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel: “God in Search of Man” and “Man’s Quest for God”.
This Yom Kippur let us go looking for each other, God reaching out to man, man yearning for God.
As we encounter each other in love, may the Day be enhanced, the moment be inspired, and our lives ennobled and uplifted.