When a bad situation arises—for example, drought in Israel—we come together as a nation to pray or fast, hoping that will have some effect on the situation. There’s an assumption that it is our lack of good deeds (or our evil deeds) that is causing this to happen. Yet, conversely, when something good happens to the Jewish people, the rabbis never come out and say, “Wow, we must have done something great! Let’s institute a day of celebration!” Why the contradiction?
Both Purim and Chanukah are examples of the Rabbis declaring a celebration for the positive things that we accomplished, and that happened to us. However, it is true that even in those celebrations we majorly attribute our good fortunes to G-d. I believe that our Rabbis were very well aware of “attribution theory” and wanted to guard against it. Let me explain. Attribution theory posits that an individual when judging his accomplishments will assume that they are due to his unique capabilities, efforts and personal resources. However, when judging his failures, he will attribute them to outside factors. During my many years of teaching high school children I have often seen this theory in action. If a student does well on a test, he will assume more often than not that his grade is due to his brilliance. . If he does poorly, he will pout about how unfair the test or the teacher was.
Our Rabbis tell us that we should carry two pieces of paper in our hands. In our left hand the paper should read “The entire world was created for me”. In our right hand the paper should read, “I am but dust and ashes”.
The Rabbis felt that in our successes we should be mindful of our left hand, so that we remember that our personal unique capabilities are G-d given, that we have an obligation to use them, but that we should never laud them over our neighbors. On the other hand, when failure and difficulty strike, we should remember our right hand, become aware of our infinite worth and ability to change, maintain our belief that the locus of our power is internal and do whatever is humanly possible to deal with our situation.
I am not sure that I share your view that there is a contradiction here. When bad situations arise, as a community and as individuals, we have an obligation to look at ourselves to see if we are responsible for the situation. If that is the case, we can act to rectify the problems we have identified. This does not seem to be the case in your example.
I have always understood that the communal prayers and fasting, that you reference, apply when we cannot find the cause of our problems, and we need to reach out to God for help. This is in essence because we cannot help ourselves. As in your example, none of us can make it rain, but by joining in communal signs of intense prayerfulness such as fasting, we are signaling to God that we do in fact need help, even when we don’t merit it.
With that in mind, there is no need to make a special celebration just because we have done something good. There is a good example of this notion in Pirkei Avot 2:9, Rabbi Yohanan b. Zakkai taught; “If you have studied much Torah, take no special credit for it since you were created for this very purpose.” We would do well to approach our good deeds as a manifestation of our purpose in this world, rather than celebrating them as if they were fleeting.
You are making some rather unacceptable assumptions. To begin with, it is only an extremist few that assumes that lack of good deeds is a cause of natural catastrophes. This is tantamount to blaming Jews for the Holocaust. We do not believe in blaming the victims.
Secondly, we have created celebratory events such as Yom Ha-Atzmaut.
Thirdly, you seem to assume that God is a cosmic bellhop who carries your bags through life if you tip him by praying, and who drops the bags on your feet if you do not tip him enough. That position has been rejected by philosophers for centuries. The limited God concept was introduced by Maimonides in the third section of the Moreh Nevuchim (The Guide for the Perplexed). This was written in the twelfth century.
A study of Jewish philosophy and theology might be very helpful to you in this regard.
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