I feel I am losing faith in G‑d as a result of the recent tragedies. If G‑d can let such suffering happen, how can I believe in Him? Do you have any defense for what G‑d did?


I share in your horror and shock at the tragedies that the world has witnessed over the last couple of weeks. Any thinking person must ask the questions that you are asking. Some feel that this challenge to their faith is insurmountable. That is understandable. But, without defending G‑d, perhaps we have to separate between rejecting G‑d and being angry with Him.

Any time even one innocent person suffers, we are faced with a contradiction: the belief in a just and kind G‑d on the one hand, and the suffering of innocents on the other. Most prefer the easy way out of the moral tension caused by this contradiction and settle with one of two simplistic positions: either G‑d is not responsible, because He doesn't exist or He is powerless; or the victims were not innocents because they deserved punishment. Jewish thought, however, does not look for easy solutions.

Here is a different approach:

1) G‑d is responsible. We cannot accept the cowardly theology that G‑d is not responsible — that anything that happens in the world that doesn't mesh with our idea of His goodness is just an amoral and indifferent act of nature. For who is responsible for nature if not G‑d? And what type of a G‑d is He if He cannot control nature?

2) This is not a punishment. G‑d is not a vicious tyrant who indiscriminately punishes the wicked with the innocent. Even in the biblical flood innocent people were spared. Which moral person could have the chutzpah to say that all those who perished in this deluge deserved it?

3) We don't want an explanation. If we had an explanation, then we could go on with our lives as usual. We could be comfortable that there is a nice and neat justification for hundreds of thousands of deaths and the suffering of millions. That would be a further tragedy.

4) We can be disappointed with G‑d. There is a Jewish tradition of even the most righteous people objecting to G‑d's decisions. Abraham tried to defend the people of Sodom although G‑d wanted to destroy them, and Moses interceded for the Israelites after the episode of the golden calf, when G‑d had decreed that they be wiped out. We don't have to agree with divine decrees. We have a right to be upset at G‑d. Even after the event, although we accept that He is the True Judge, if we see what we feel to be an injustice, we can't be at peace with it. We must scream at G‑d and demand an end to such pain.

The Jewish response to tragedy is daring and challenging: don't solve the paradox, let it disturb you. There is a real contradiction: a kind G‑d has allowed unimaginable suffering, and this does not make sense. From the tension of facing this contradiction comes an urge to do something — that the world must change to be a place of only goodness and peace. The suffering of innocents does not fit into my worldview; thus it must end. We must do what we can to alleviate the suffering of people around us. Then we can turn to G‑d and demand that He do the same.

Don't abandon belief in G‑d, and don't abandon belief in human innocence. Allow the two to create a holy tension that results in a passion for goodness — and do something about it.