“One day when I was young,” said my father, “I opened a history book and read for the first time about the horrors of the slave trade in Africa with all its gory, horrible details.” The look of disgust was still apparent on my father’s face those years later as he told the story. He still found the notion of human oppressing human completely distasteful. “After seeing those pictures, I closed the book,” continued my father, “and said I was done with G-d and religion, if such could happen.”
Such is the mind of a kid: If G-d could allow horrors, then we run. Fortunately for us next generation kids, my father was a brilliant kid and didn’t stop his thought process there.
“But then I thought,” continued my father, “about my father and my rebbe, the Shultvutker Rebbe. I thought, surely they know about the slave trade in Africa and they are still frum [observant].
I figured they knew something more than me that would be an answer to the question of how does G-d allow this to happen. I figured if my father and my rebbe clung to G-d, they knew something I’d find out.”
And so it was that my father continued learning in Yeshiva, continued growing in his spirituality, evolving into one of the most amazing individuals around. He concluded the narrative to us kids, saying, “don’t ever be scared off of your beliefs because of a question. Questions should not be scary and send you running. Wait it out. You’ll understand things when you are older.”
Note here: my father did not give us the answers. Even the answer of how he reconciled a merciful G-d with the fact that the slave trade existed, for he did find those answers when older, he did not share. He always told us he wanted us to wrestle with our own questions, hold on tight and find our own answers. “If you discover G-d on your own,” he said, “you appreciate it way more.”
Great mathematicians don’t hide under their desks when faced with a formula they don’t understand. Prize-winning doctors don’t put chloroform masks on their faces when meeting up a disease that baffles them. Intensely spiritual people don’t hide from G-d when facing pain.
Thank G-d my father didn’t leave because of his questions. He hung on until he found his answers. I think I will, too.