The Great Question
The Shabbat experience and community lunch this week, is dedicated in loving memory of Professor Peter Schotten z"l.
How appropriate than, that this week in the Torah we read the story of Abraham, who upon hearing that G-d planned to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, said the immortal words "Far be it from You to do a thing such as this. . . will the Judge of the entire earth not perform justice?"
Like our great and holy ancestor Abraham, I feel that Peter lived the true depth of these words entirely. Each time I had the privilege of studying Torah with Peter, or even a regular conversation, he would stir the direction and pack the conversation with insight and explanation, questions and better questions — always seeking a deeper understanding of the text.
How could it be that Hashem, the true judge, would not perform justice!?
From the depths of his neshamah, Peter held G-d to a high standard, as we all should. And demanded to understand and see the justice and goodness in G-ds every decision.
Which brings us to the next step. What shall one do when we don’t understand G-d's just ways? What is the Torah way when we don’t see things the way we want to see them?
Some questions are better than any answers that could be given, and sometimes we need to remember that no matter what the world says or does, you and I must carry on a meaningful and productive life, promote justice and kindness in our surroundings, and indeed, help create a world where there should be no room for any kind of man’s inhumanity to man.
As the Rebbe once wrote, that despite the great questions we have, our resolve must be that "I can not slacken in my determination to carry out my purpose in life, which is to serve G‑d, wholeheartedly and with joy, and make this world a fitting abode—not only for humans, but also for the Shechina, the Divine Presence itself."
Peter was a loving husband and father, and an accomplished scholar and teacher, who positively influenced and helped shape many students during his career. For many decades, Peter also played important roles in Jewish community life in Sioux Falls, and inspired others as well.
We wish Bernice and Cheryl Heike a happy and healthy life, chayim aruchim v'tovim. May the soul of Peter ben Menachem rest peacefully in Gan Eden, together with all the holy souls of our ancestors, all the way to Abraham, who first asked the great question.
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Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.