Monday, May 20, 2013

JEWISH THOUGHT: Why bad things happen to good people?

?למה צדיק ורע לו

Last week we explained that Hashem's first commitment with the people of Israel is to insure that as a people we will never disappear.  We see that despite being the victims of the oldest and most widespread hatred in human history --anti-Semitism-- HaShem delivered His promise to us. 

Now, what about each of us as individuals. Are we also individually under HaShem's permanent unconditional protection? Many rabbis and Jewish philosophers discussed this issue. Especially what is known in English as theodicy: when the wicked succeeds and the righteous fails and suffers. We kind of understand when bad things happen to the wicked and when God rewards the righteous. That is expected. But we also see that this is not always the case. Many times (too many?) bad things happen to good people. 

The fate of an individual is definitely within God's control. The question then is the following: in light of God's Omnipotence (=God has control over everything), Omnibenevolence (=HaShem is all good) and Omniscience (=HaShem knows everything) how can we reconcile the suffering of the innocent? 

This is probably one of the matters that drive many believers away from faith. 

The first one to address this question was no less than Moshe rabbenu. The Tora says (Ex. 33:11) that Moshe spoke to God "face to face" which means that unlike all other Prophets who received a message from God while asleep or in a trance, Moshe spoke with God while completely conscious and alert. Among other things, Moshe's awareness provided him with an extraordinary opportunity. Within that non-virtual conversation with God Moshe was able to ask God a question.  What question did Moshe ask God? Perhaps on behalf of all humankind Moshe asked God: Why bad things happen to good people? (Ex. 33:18 , see Rashi)

In the following weeks, BH, we will see what did HaShem answer Moshe, and how Prophets (Moshe himself!), Kings, Rabbis, Jewish thinkers and poets dealt with this sensitive issue.   

this RSA animate presentation