"It is not in our hands to explain the prosperity of the wicked or even the sufferings of the righteous." So said Rabbi Yannai in the Mishna some 2,000 years ago. The Talmud (Kiddushin 39b) insists "there is no reward for mitzvot in this world." We have had a long time to read and understand the Book of Job, and we know that the calculus of reward and punishment is more perplexing and agonizing than we can know.
Than we can know, but not, apparently, than Rav Ovadiah Yosef, a former chief rabbi of Israel, can know. Rav Ovadiah is an ilui, a genius of halacha.
His memory is astonishing, his range remarkable. Unfortunately, his theology is appalling.
The Chasidic Reb Nachman of Bratslav tells of a king's son who goes mad: he believes he is a turkey.
The boy removes all his clothes, spends all his time under a table and refuses to eat normal food. Distraught and alarmed, his father summons in all manner of experts, but none can cure the boy.
His tale of disappointment turns into a tale of revisioning and change: After a long time, a wise man arrives at the palace, and asks to see the prince. The wise man joins the boy under the table, and declares himself to be a turkey. Little by little, the two become comfortable with one another, and gradually the man encourages the turkey-prince to put on his clothes, then eat human food and finally to join the rest of the family. In this manner, the Chasidic master says, the wise man cures the prince.
When Dr. Edward Phillips set out to create the first English-language exhibit on the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, opening Sunday at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, information proved elusive.