Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Suffering In Haiti and These Caricatures of popular figures are spectacular!

Tragedies, particularly of this magnitude, often lead people to ask - at least for a fleeting moment - "Where's God in all of this?" "How could God let such a tragedy occur?"

What is fascinating, is that we only ask these questions because we intuitively believe three axioms about the nature of God. God must be: (1) all good, (2) all knowing, and (3) all powerful. If you remove any one of these attributes, the question disappears.

If God isn't all good, He can do evil and even enjoy inflicting pain. Is there any wonder why bad things happen to good people?

If God isn't omniscient, bad things occur because He doesn't know everything that's going on in the world. If He knew about it; He would certainly put a stop to it.

If God isn't omnipotent, bad things happen because there are forces beyond God's control. Diseases and natural disasters are too mighty for God. We can only call God to task for events that are in His hands.

If one believes in an omnipotent Being who is all good and all knowing, then the question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" poses a real challenge.

In truth, we should ask that question even regarding events of much smaller magnitude.

Just how much pain must occur to legitimately raise the question? The Talmud gives the example of a person who reaches into his pocket with the intention of getting a certain coin and instead pulls out a smaller coin. Forced to reach into his pocket a second time, he experiences minor discomfort. The Talmud declares that this added exertion is reason enough to necessitate asking, "Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this?" (Brachot 5a)

Any amount of pain or discomfort poses the same theological question, even the stubbing of a toe. Philosophically, the dull aches in life demand as much an explanation as the major crises. After all, if God is all good, all powerful and all knowing, why should my daughter get a paper cut? Why should my friend Stan, lose his voice?  Furthermore, minor examples of discomfort are perhaps more conducive to delving into the issue of suffering, since they diffuse the emotional tension, making it easier to focus on acquiring intellectual clarity.

While the topic, is too complex to clarify in this limited space, wrestling with suffering requires viewing all events as meaningful. Events in our life are not mere coincidences, random accidents that have nothing to do with a purposeful Being. If God is all knowing, all powerful and all good, nothing just happens. I would like to leave you with a thought from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto:

"One who believes in God's oneness and understands its implications must believe that the Holy One, Blessed be He, is one, single, and unique, being subject to no impediment or restraint whatsoever, He alone dominating all ... there is no other beneath Him who exercises any dominion in the world ... He alone supervises all of His creatures individually, and nothing transpires in the world except through His will and agency - not through chance, and not through nature, and not through constellation; but He governs all of the earth and all that is in it, decreeing all that is to be done..." (Daas Tevunos).

Living with this attitude enables us to see God's guiding hand in our daily life. When we realize that events carry divine messages, we are compelled to open them up and explore their contents.