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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

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Question:

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is this world so unfair? Please don't tell me "We can't understand G‑d's ways." I am sick of hearing that. I want an explanation.

Answer:

Are you sure you want an explanation? Do you really want to know why the innocent suffer? I think not. You are far better off with the question than with an answer.

You are bothered by the fact that people suffer undeservedly. As you should be. Any person with an ounce of moral sensitivity is outraged by the injustices of our world. Abraham, the first Jew, asked G-d, "Should the Judge of the whole world not act fairly?" Moses asked, "Why have You treated this people badly?" And today we still ask, "Why G‑d, why?"

But what if we found the answer? What if someone came along and gave us a satisfying explanation? What if the mystery were finally solved? What if we asked why, and actually got an answer?

If this ultimate question were answered, then we would be able to make peace with the suffering of innocents. And that is unthinkable. Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that's exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening.

Imagine you are in a hospital and you hear a woman screaming with pain. Outside her room, her family is standing around chatting, all smiling and happy. You scream at them, "What's wrong with you? Can't you hear how much pain she is in?" They answer, "This is the delivery ward. She is having a baby. Of course we are happy."

When you have an explanation, pain doesn't seem so bad anymore. We can tolerate suffering when we know why it is happening.

And so, if we could make sense of innocent people suffering, if we could rationalise tragedy, then we could live with it. We would be able to hear the cry of sweet children in pain and not be horrified. We would tolerate seeing broken hearts and shattered lives, for we would be able to neatly explain them away. Our question would be answered, and we could move on.

But as long as the pain of innocents remains a burning question, we are bothered by its existence. And as long as we can't explain pain, we must alleviate it. If innocent people suffering does not fit into our worldview, we must eradicate it. Rather than justifying their pain, we need to get rid of it.

So keep asking the question, why do bad things happen to good people. But stop looking for answers. Start formulating a response. Take your righteous anger and turn it into a force for doing good. Redirect your frustration with injustice and unfairness and channel it into a drive to fight injustice and unfairness. Let your outrage propel you into action. When you see innocent people suffering, help them. Combat the pain in the world with goodness. Alleviate suffering wherever you can.

We don't want answers, we don't want explanations, and we don't want closure. We want an end to suffering. And we dare not leave it up to G-d to alleviate suffering. He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (258)
July 18, 2014
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People
That is one of the best replies I've heard;of course there's no good reason for the innocent to suffer,not even from God.Every preacher tells us,God has rational reasons for what happens; untrue! There ARE NO RATIONAL REASONS.There may only be un illogical, un-reasoning universe, with a stumbling, inept God. And we should not accept that as just.We may not be able to change God,but we can try to stop injustice here, ourselves. Job himself railed against God, when God punished him unjustly.And he was right to do so.
doreet
Eugene
July 9, 2014
Truth about why bad things REALLY happen to good people.
I mean no disrespect for your well thought-out answer to this person's question. I Do not mean to be arrogant or argumentative, but I actually have found some answers to this vitally important question and those answers absolutely do not imply that knowing the explanations will then result in feelings of contentment with other people's suffering - just the opposite. Knowing why bad things happen gives us loving compassion for others, and for ourselves. It is healing. It is the caring love that will heal the suffering on the entire planet.
The answers are complex - you must be willing to change some of your life-long beliefs about how things "are". You must be willing to expand your entire life view of the journey of your own soul, your relationship with G-d and each other. I have just finished a book that took 8 years to research about all of this. It has not been published yet, but soon I will have a website posted to help people learn.
Respectfully,
Barb St Clair
Colorado Springs, CO USA
June 23, 2014
This is probably the most reasonable thing I have ever read. This question honestly makes so much sense now! Thank you so much!
Taylor
nebraska
June 20, 2014
I have been fortunate to se a few of the miracles that Baruch Ashem has done. For instance ater my wife passed away, G-D bless her soul, Iwas awoken one night and I felt a warm kiss on my forhead a warm haand grasping mine, and a warm kiss on y lips....I then said her name and the spirit was gone.
In the morning the radiio went on and a song came on by Englebert Humperdink singing..." Release Me." A person said that it was a gift from G-D.
Ed.
Florida
June 20, 2014
Knowing better to not know
By "know better" I meant that; because no one knows the reason why bad things happen to good people no one ( including the Rabbi) should make up stories to account for that morally unacceptable discrepancy. The Rebbe alludes to that in the article "The Rebbe on the Holocaust
What the Rebbe Said (and Didn't Say) About the Holocaust"
Avraham ben Rafael
California
June 19, 2014
why bad things
As far as' knowing better,' you are men of God(Rabbi). But yet the Torah or the Prophets go on being ignored; God is never allowed to speak for himself.
29 (28) The nistarot (secret things) belong unto Hashem Eloheinu: but the niglot (those things which are revealed) belong unto us and to baneinu ad olam, that we may do all the divrei haTorah hazot.
THE REASONS ARE THERE.
John
new york
June 19, 2014
Dear Rabbi Brownstein,

Thank you for your response to my post. To be honest and blunt, I would not want to pray to, or honour such a God, who would allow the holocaust to happen. In fact, I would find such a God guilty of mass murder. The God I pray to is a loving and merciful God, not one who sees a reason for suffering, torture, and murder. Even the formation of the State of Israel is not enough to justify the lives of 6,000,000 souls.

Dear Lord, if you are reading this post right now, please tell us that you had nothing to do with allowing the holocaust to happen. If you are the almighty God, surely you can send us a message.

I'm sorry if I offend anyone or even God for that matter with this posting. But it truly angers me to equate God with any act that is unloving or unmerciful. As a matter of fact, all the violence directed by God in the Torah must be a misprint or mistranslated. I cannot accept a wrathful God. Never. No way.

Thanks for giving me the freedom to post my thought.
Kevin
June 18, 2014
The old "perspective " story yet again? Rabbi Brownstein, you can't seriously propose that there is any perspective that justifies the murder of > 6,000,000 people? You should know better ...
Avraham ben Rafael
June 18, 2014
Re: G-d's omnipotence
A third option is that G-d was not a bystander, but that He had some purpose in having the Holocaust happen. We should not try to speculate as to what that reason was, but even we can understand the concept of choosing the lesser of two evils (it is horrifying to consider what the other option might have been), or of things that appear terrible from one perspective but prove to be beneficial from another. The assumption of either of the other options is that we fully understand what happened, but that G-d's response was problematic. But in fact we understand very little of what goes on, as we have a very limited perspective even on our own lives and the lives of those closest to us. We do not know all the factors. For more on this subject, see here.
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
Chabad.org
June 12, 2014
Anonymous
-"All human make mistakes and learn from it " - not true
"and become stronger and experienced" - not always true
"The strongest person never cry when bad happen to him" - not always true
" he will accept it and challenge it and come out of it. "- not always true
"Human made problems cause more pain to soul then nature problems" - not true .

"During nature problems(Like earth quake or tsunami etc..) happen all human stay together and help each other".- Not always true . Why does this not happen during "human made " problems since you claim that "Human made" problems cause more pain?

"So basically to create a balance were ever there is good there is bad and wherever there is bad there is good."- outrageous and presumptuous statement with no logical argument to support the claim
Avraham ben Rafael
California
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