Like any Torah Nerd, I’ve never met a commentary I didn’t like — the more abstruse and seriously-taking the better — but I’ve always had difficulty with the traditional view of God As Punisher and Rewarder.
Perhaps that stems from an inherent distrust of authority, honestly earned by dint of entering my formative years about the time Nixon was talking to the White House portrait gallery. But whatever the reason, the Deuteronomic Theology has never struck me as an accurate model for my own devotions; I’m much more of an “I can’t figure it out, so I’ll enjoy what I can while I’m here, help others do the same, and try to do my best” Ecclesiastician.
But what if we take “God of Justice” as a culture-specific metaphor for, or understanding of, the Universal Law of Inescapable Returns — otherwise known as Karma Popula, What-Goes-Around-Comes-Around, Don’t Excrete Where You Eat, et al?
And what if the Torah’s take on this most basic of closed-system principles is a logical consequence of the Torah’s concept of a personal God — One we can cut a deal with, speak to, and Who has a deep and abiding interest in our welfare and actions?
After all, if we posit a personal relationship with the Source of Existence, it’s easy to take things personally when they don’t go our way — when they’re out of our control, when we ask, “What did I do to deserve this?”
One cannot guess the mind of God, but certain actions (and patterns of actions) remit almost guaranteed consequences — and when we know this, the God of Blame becoems the God of Responsibility.
“Neither the security of the wicked nor the afflictions of the righteous are within the grasp of our understanding.” — Pirke Avot