Rabbi Israel Chait
Student’s edited notes from taped lectures
Tzofar is of the opinion that all of God’s actions are due to His essence. Thus, the only understanding of His actions is by understanding His essence. Therefore, since man cannot understand God’s essence, we cannot understand His actions. Tzofar argues that it is impossible to attain reasons for God’s actions. (11:3) These are the words of Maimonides. But Tzofar’s words do not seem to be what Maimonides says. If we review Tzofar in verses 13 through 20, he seems to be saying that there is a system of justice. So how can Maimonides hold the view that that we cannot understand God’s actions, yet, we can understand His justice?
It is true that Tzofar says, “Who can know God?” But this is not particular to Tzofar. So why does Maimonides state what he did? Tzofar also states in verse 5 that God exacted less from Job than what he really deserved. In 4:17 we see that Eliphaz says the same thing as Tzofar. Furthermore, it seems as though Tzofar contradicts himself: first he says that God exacted less than he deserved, which means there is a system, and then he says that you cannot understand God, which would mean that even if there were a system, you could not fathom it.
In truth, there is no contradiction. For when Tzofar says there is a system, as in, “Job got less than he deserved” and verses 13-20, he means just that. And when he states that God is unknowable, he means that God’s system of justice is not based on man’s idea of justice, but rather on God’s system, which is part of His essence, and unknowable to man. Therefore, both are true: there can be a system, and also, it is unknowable. Tzofar is not suggesting a contradiction.
Job’s Response to Tzofar
Job straddles both sides of the argument regarding the existence of Specific Providence (Hashgacha Pratyos). Does this mean he is unsure? No it does not. What Job means with his apparent contradiction is that he cannot detect a system with which God works? And the reason that this is in his answer is that Tzofar said that there is in fact a system. Thereby, Job conveys to Tzofar, via example, how there really is no system, in his opinion. Job unmasks an inconsistency in the way of the world, if one attributes all situations to God.
In chapter 13:1-10, Job rebukes his three friends. Especially in verse 10 where he says:
“Will you secretly show partiality to God?”
Job is saying that the three have an emotional prejudice for God. He continues, “God will get you for your lies because God does not like lies in any form.” In verse 13 Job states that he should be left alone so as to speak his mind, and let whatever come, be upon him. He says this because he maintains it better to commit himself to what his knowledge tells him, than to openly deceive himself, like the three are doing. He maintains it is true that he may get punished for his opinion, but it would be much worse to openly fool himself. But in order for Job to hold this view, he must be premising that God favors truth, because that is what Job is committing himself to via this opinion.
We see from verses 15 and 16 that Job did not lose his love God. He says he will trust in God. On the whole, even though Job did not understand why these things were happening to him, he still loved the truth. Ironically, Job would be more in line with perfection by saying something, which may not be true. The reason why he would be more truthful, is because he was guided by reason. If he were to deny reason, that would surely be going against truth.
In verse 21 Job says that God should,
“draw His Hand far from me”, and “let not thy terror make me afraid.”
The “drawing of the hand” means “don’t oppress me physically”, while “Thy terror” means mentally. Job wished to be physically and mentally capable of arguing with God. Then, in verse 23, he says, “How many are mine iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin.” Job meant in other words, “God is doing this to me because of my sins, and if so, I want to know what exactly the sins are.” Or God is doing this because He wants to destroy me, “Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, and holdest me for Thine enemy?” (13:24)