Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

E-mail

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.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (286)
February 16, 2015
Suffering
Trite answer. We are human, and we think and feel about certain situations. If a person has to endure a mentally or physically painful experience, through no fault of his own, he/she may deem it bad in the short term. He/she may view it differently afterwards, but it is or was still bad at the time. Suffering is suffering - people feel. We are physical beings. We will never be able to 'rationalise tragedy' that we personally own, and should not attempt to rationalise others suffering. Obviously we will try to eliminate that suffering for ourselves, and sometimes others, But if we are supposed to be 'good' we do want to know Why? at times Hashem appears not to be adhering to His own rules.
Sonya
uk
February 10, 2015
@Dell, thank you for your response. I would enjoy having some references to the golden rule in other cultures. I think I heard Confucius saying to 'not do what you do want done to you.' Christ though put into the proactive by saying "do." Avoiding not harming others would be a big step in alleviating suffering, but how much more so if we actually took the initiative to do what would be in the best interest of others. At any rate, those references would be interesting.
As,far as the Bibles morality goes, I realize it can appear confusing. The only way it makes sense to me is in the context of God's original purpose. In Genesis we learn it was for Man to populate the earth free from death. Our first parents thought better; we are hopefully learning from their decision. God immediately promised to undue the harm done. Unfortunately, not everybody thinks restructuring is necessary. Would it have been fair for God to let them ruin it for the cooperative? Look up Canaanite worship.
John
February 9, 2015
Hope and prays
Who really has the answer? I am told that this is G-d's way of bringing us back to him. How far away we stray, feeling self-sufficient and independent of a greater strength. How often do we think everything that happens, simply happens by chance? Sleep is death's twin brother. Do you thank G-d for waking up every morning? For your health, your senses, etc. But when something bad happens, you remember him and cry out to him for help, answers, relief, mercy. I don't know the answer, but if it makes you remember him and come back to him, it works.
Anonymous
springfield
February 8, 2015
What's the Difference?
Seems to me you could just take God completely out of the equation. The vast majority of people who believe in God consider him to be a person-like being who is all-powerful, cares about people, answers prayers, and intervenes in the world. If he is just waiting for us to alleviate all the suffering, then what's the difference between a real God and an imaginary God?
Tim
January 22, 2015
Even karma requires compasion
I think this response is really not satisfactory. It may be that someone suffers because their soul needs to grow (as some who believe in re-incarnation will say) but to say that this will minimise sensitivity to their suffering is almost an insult. Some people enjoy to see others suffer they are sadistics but the majority of us if we understand we can ten time fold support the person who suffers. I knew when my daughters gave birth that the pain is part of giving birth but I can assure you that by no mean did I stood there indifferent! I felt each of her pain and my heart was praying for it to be over! Why do you guys have airy fairy answer to everything???
Rachel Sussman
Australia
January 16, 2015
A number of years ago a bumper sticker became popular saying, "practice random acts of kindness." It seems it was in response to a spree of random acts of violence. So we see that randomness comes in the positive as well as the negative(that is, somewhere there is a victim). Suppose though everyone decided to follow the advice of the bumper sticker. Would that be a restriction or abandonment of free will? Free will is more of a matter of the ability to choose rather than the choices made. A familiar appropriate verse is Deut. 30: 19.20. Here God himself pleads with us to "choose life." That is to practice random acts of kindness. To use our gift of free will in a way that makes our Heavenly Father happy.-proverbs 27:11.
John
January 14, 2015
Why did the writer of this article not spell GOD out?
There are two reasons for this that I know of.
1) We use G-d when writing so that should the paper that we are writing on be destroyed the name (God) will not be destroyed.
2) Are we (mere mortals) in a position to use the name God? Are we sinless? - saintly? - totally innocent of all misdeeds? No! Because of this we are in no position to use the full word - "GOD."
J Levy
Johannesburg
January 14, 2015
@John in New York is apparently not familiar with the fact that the 'golden rule' preceded Biblical texts. It can be found in every culture. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, it's highly unlikely that (if considered a true story) the children of Israel would ever have made it to Mt. Sinai (never proven to exist) thinking it was "OK" to steal from and kill each other. As for the bible being a source of moral values, have you ever read it? The old testament is replete with admonishments to kill or enslave almost everyone in other tribes! Sounds highly immoral to most atheists.

@Geza in Hungary: The bible makes much more sense when interpreted as a compilation of legends created by patriarchal societies. It even makes more sense if you realize it is exactly what these societies would create if there were no god.

@anonymous in El Paso - if there is a supernatural being that created this universe full of randomness, how is it different from a godless universe?
Dell Anderson
Fairfield, CA
January 14, 2015
I like your answer very much! I still have a question, which others have posed to me, and I haven't been able to answer it satisfactorily. Why does the Almighty (directly) cause suffering to innocents? For example, many of the Egyptian firstborns were innocent in Pharaoh's sin, yet G-d brought calamity on them. I know G-d is good, and He had a reason, but for unbelievers that is not enough of an explanation.
Geza
Hungary
January 6, 2015
For this world (this life) to be ours or even partly ours in any meaningful sense, all cannot unfold in a perfectly measured and metered way -- if it did, we would have no ownership at all -- this would be G-d's world only and free will would have no meaning. The randomness that was designed into creation is what gives us a stake in our own existence.
Anonymous
El Paso
Show all comments
Load next 50
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG