The recent wave of break-ins and car thefts in Baltimore’s Jewish neighborhoods has naturally got many of us feeling a little bit on edge. In response, I researched various anti-theft measures and took a number of steps to protect my property.
This was a matter of surprise to one of my colleagues. We were talking about the state of municipal affairs when he jokingly suggested, “But hey, you’re Orthodox, so you have nothing to worry about, right? God saves!” And he seemed genuinely bemused when I mentioned my rather extensive investigation.
I then told him the well-known adage about God and the man on the roof. Once upon a time, a man was stuck in his house during a major flood. As the waters began to cover the streets, a Humvee showed up at his door and safety workers urged him to evacuate. The man refused and said, “No thanks, God will save me.” When the water reached the second floor, a speedboat came by to rescue him, but again he refused. When the water reached the roof, a helicopter swooped down, but the man insisted that God would save him.
And he drowned. Upon arriving in heaven, the indignant man demanded an explanation, asking why God did not save him, and God replied incredulously, “I sent you a Humvee, a boat, and a helicopter!”
I’ve always enjoyed this story, as did my co-worker (although my kids were only mildly amused), and used it as a springboard to talk about what faith is and what it isn’t. Faith doesn’t mean you can sit through a flood and expect the hand of God to pluck you out of trouble. Nor does it mean that you can leave your car unlocked on the street at night and plan to find it there in the morning. Faith, to me, means that God is ultimately running the show, and that if you do your part, things will turn out as they should (which isn’t always what you asked for).
Judaism teaches that God expects us to use doctors to cure our illnesses. But why aren’t prayer and faith enough? The answer to that question is that the world was created for us to use—not to eschew. Medicine and science are a part of that. So are car alarms, “The Club,” and the Northwest Citizens Patrol, a governmentally recognized local group which started in the Orthodox community and provides extra safety patrols.
In the end, my colleague was both correct and incorrect. I’m not worried—but not because I’m expecting God to magically protect my car and home from evildoers. It’s because I’ve taken the necessary and reasonable steps to protect myself—and the rest I leave up to Him.