There’s an old saying that goes like “there’s a fine line between genius and madness”. The same however could be said between “prophecy and lunacy”.Prophets were often called by that term, since it was difficult for the common folk to understand even some of their message, if at all. Not only that, but sadly there have been many charlatans that posed as holy prophets, only to mislead the general public, and that has been the cause of a lot of trouble for the Jews.
The prophet Habakuk lived in very turbulent times, to say the least, but also had a very special life. To start, as the son of the holy Shunamite woman, he died when he was young, and was revived by the prophet Elisha.
His book is short (with only 3 chapters) and starts with an uncanny complaint to Hashem “How long will I cry and You will not hear! I cry out to You of violence, and You will not save!” which prompted a severe response (chapter 2) in which Hashem reassured him that he’d bring vengeance upon the wicked. The 3rd chapter is a very interesting, impassionate and unique prayer, in which Habakuk apologizes for his error and praises Hashem.
Crossing the fine line in prayer
The word used for “error” in Hebrew שיגיון(Shigayon) is also related to insanity שיגעון (Shigaon). This opens up a few interesting interpretations on Habakuk’s “error” which many commentators address.The first is that, of course, we often say that when someone makes a mistake/sin, he’s momentarily taken up by a “spirit of insanity”, as our sages teach in the Talmud.
It’s often difficult to appreciate greatness. When we don’t understand something, we tend to dismiss it as wrong in a variety of ways. However, if we stop to think, we can understand that this natural barrier can be broken. Hashem’s wisdom by definition transcends us. This means that, in our current level, we cannot understand why certain things in our lives don’t happen the way we want. But, if we could see His reasoning, we’d for sure agree with it 100%.
Similarly, many people don’t see what’s so special about Tzadikim. They don’t look at all different and sometimes might even have strange customs. Yet, it’s in that moment of “flow” where greatness often happens. To the outsider, this certainly looks like craziness. And, of course, the level above us, in whatever we are trying to accomplish, always sounds like that until we reach there.
Hashem’s great love
Habakuk’s story of mistake gives us also a glimpse of Hashem’s infinite compassion. He questioned Hashem’s attributes, by perhaps insinuating that justice was nowhere to be found. This, he acknowledged, was insanity. Yet, thanks to that, he received great prophecies about the future.
We also find that, when the people sinned with the episode of the golden calf, Moshe Rabbenu prayed for their forgiveness. Hashem did forgive, and shockingly enough, Moshe Rabbenu asks that He shows His glory to him. This was a tremendous gift and revelation of Hashem’s back, with the “Tefillin knot”, which was granted.
We are left wondering: how could Moshe Rabbenuask something so great when he had just acquired His forgiveness? Wasn’t it time to settle down, thank Hashem for the kindness and maybe wait a little?
When we hurt someone else, it’s very difficult to find grace in their eyes right after they forgive us.People take time to restore the same degree of friendship and love as before, especially if the offense was severe.
The same however does not happen to Hashem. While we need to strive to not sin, Hashem always leaves a door open for repentance. And, when that happens, we can take out all the negative energy and turn into blessings, just like Moshe Rabbenu did! And also, don’t be afraid of looking a little crazy.
Habakuk teaches us that, with Hashem, everything can be turned out for best. Truly, Hashem’s compassion can be considered crazy to us, but if we understand this, we can make the most out of it and bring to us all the blessings we need. He’s currently buried in Kadarim, in the north of Israel. This is also one of our destinations for the Prayer Treks.
May the prophet’s memory be for a blessing!