Part 37: Chapter 7, Verses 17 - 21
17. What is man that You should make him important by taking notice of
18. That You should remember him every morning, and examine him every
19. How long will You not refrain from hitting me? You don not
loosen Your hand from me even for the time it takes for me to swallow my
20. If I sin, what do I do to You, watcher of mankind? Why do You
set me as Your target to hit me as if I was a burden to You?
21. And why
don't You forgive my sin and overlook my transgression, since now I am
going to die and lie in the earth; and then when You inquire after me, I
will no longer be.
Now Iyov begins to refute Elifaz's viewpoint that G-d exercises providence
and scrutiny over man's behavior. How important is man that G-d should
watch over him even in a casual way. Doesn't G-d have more important things
to tend to than to examine my deeds and situation each day and every moment?
According to Elifaz, Iyov's suffering is directly orchestrated by the G-d
of judgment. Iyov's physical condition is desperate. His body and soul are
so ravished that he requires continuous monitoring. The slightest variance
in his physical and emotional state could push him to the brink of death or
emotional collapse. From a human perspective there can be only two possible
reasons for such intense involvement in Iyov's desperate situation. Either
Iyov is on the receiving end of horrible revenge; that requires the avenger
to keep close tabs on the physical condition of his victim in order to
preserve him alive for further torture. Or he is the recipient of a gift
of love from G-d in order to secure him a greater portion in the world
to-come than he previously deserved.
Elifaz claims that it is the latter. Iyov is unwilling to accept either
option. After all, how great can a crime be when committed by a mortal
against the omnipotent G-d. Surely the results of his actions cannot be so
powerful as to elicit such intensive involvement. Rather than
administrating such banal minutiae as boils and skin ulcers, the omnipotent
G-d could simply press the undo button and correct the damage inflicted by
the deeds of His human creature. Indeed it is the omnipotence of G-d ,His
eminence of stature, that removes him from involvement in the arena of
human affairs. Are man's negative actions, i.e. his sins, so far reaching
that G-d needs to protect Himself with wrath and revenge.
Iyov wonders; what positive purpose is there in sustaining my life? Does
G-d have any benefit from my ongoing suffering? The amount of attention and
care required to administer my afflictions in just the correct dose; strong
enough to debilitate me, but less than a lethal potency, is surely not
worth G-d's time and effort.
Here is Iyov's big error. Iyov claims that G-d is too great. His exalted
stature catapults Him right out of the human arena. This is not only an
erroneous observation, but potentially the basis for a very dangerous
philosophy, the likes of which are only too familiar to human history. It
is very convenient to remove G-d from our realm of activity. Life demands
so much more responsibility when someone is looking over your shoulder.
When that someone is G-d it can become quite daunting.
There are two ways out of this discomfort. The first is to deny G-d's
existence. That solves all problems of guilt and responsibility. It also
can turn man into an animal of monstrous proportions. The second way is to
abide to a very religious theology that puts G-d at the top of a very tall
pyramid. In fact, it is so tall that G-d cannot, or chooses not to look
down to the bottom. The end result of this philosophy can be the same as
There is often an additional hidden motivation for developing these type of
viewpoints. If G-d is so great; man must be quite small. This may be the
greatest affliction of human ego in our time. Freud reduced man to a bundle
of emotional drives, Darwinism degraded us to descendants of apes. Man has
been stripped of his true glory as the image [figuratively not physically]
of G-d on this world. The discomfort that accompanies the big brother
syndrome is more that compensated for by the honor that G-d has chosen man
to carry out the greatest mission of all times, i.e. the elevation of human
character and behavior to the level of the Divine. This is perhaps the most
important thought to ponder on the days of judgment that are upon us. May
we all be inscribed in the book of life for a healthy and prosperous new year.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of
Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.