I read your column, "How Does G-D Decide What's Right and What's Wrong?" with some interest. The question, for me, has proven (thus far) to be an insurmountable obstacle to full Jewish observance — indeed, to religious faith itself. The concept of a creator is easy enough to understand, being logical. I have found the next step, however (accepting the concept of an interested creator who instructs as to what is and is not moral) more difficult to accept. My inability to clear this hurdle precludes me from taking the final step, i.e., accepting the concept of a creator who sets forth Jewish law for me, as a Jew, to follow. (With this in mind, please note that despite my skepticism, I am conscious of my Jewish identity, keep Kosher, and constantly wrestling with these and similar questions in the hope of opening heretofore locked doors to faith.)

Given these conceptual difficulties, I was delighted and moved by your column: the lesson of Breishit Rabbah is well taken. I have more difficulty, however, accepting the response of the Rabbis to Jeremiah (in Yoma 69b). It is one thing to remain silent in the face of individual exercises in free will, and entirely another to remain passive in the face of monstrous evil. Consider the obvious example provided by modernity — the Holocaust — or, for that matter, any other instance in which evil choices by men leads to the profound suffering of other men. How does divine inactivity in such instances reveal His awesomeness? How does one overcome Yehuda Bauer's sardonic logic that, "if G‑d knew of the Holocaust, could have stopped it, and failed to do so, He is a sadist and I want nothing to do with Him"?

Many thanks in advance for your consideration of the question.


Your assumption is that for everything there is an answer, until, eventually, everything can be answered.

I don't know that this is necessarily true. The Baal Shem Tov used to say that for every answer he could find another question. After all, who says that at the heart of reality lies a giant exclamation mark, a resolution of all things? Perhaps if we could delve to the essential core of the cosmos we would find there a question mark. Perhaps we will find G‑d pondering the same questions we ask, but in some abstract sense. Or even in a very real sense. And from all these questions and questioning, He generates a world.

A case in point: You mention that you find the concept of a Creator to be logical. Yes, our minds are forced to accept this idea. The alternatives are absurd. And today, all the empirical evidence points towards the conclusion that the world indeed began. But is it logical that something could be made from nothing? Does an absolute beginning really fit somewhere in our minds?

We have no parallel in all of our reality for such a phenomenon, no handle to grasp it by. Our very survival relies on tracing each thing to a cause and that cause to the cause before it. This relationship between past and present and future is the basic fabric of our world. And here, we say that all this world began without any precedent, with no real reason that it should be this way and not another, no real reason why there should be anything at all, other than that "so desired its Creator." When it comes to creation, all we can do is sit back forever bewildered: Here is a world that by its own rules should not be here.

The more carefully we examine this world, the more bewildered we become. When Schrodinger, Einstein, Planck, Bohr, et al, originally came up with their mathematical models for the structure of the atom, they admitted that it really made no sense to describe the palpable matter beneath their feet in such a way. The dual model of wave and particle, in particular, had no place within the rational mind. They assumed these models were incomplete and that eventually the "hidden variables" would be filled in. Those missing factors have yet to turn up. And virtually all physicists have stopped looking for them. Nobody expects to make sense of the structure of matter any more. We can only describe the results we see — whether they make sense to us or not.

As far as the problem of evil is concerned, with all our answers — some of them very profound and lovely — they are all answers only as long as evil sits in the other room. As soon as we look evil in the face, all the answers leap out the window. And thankfully so, because if not, who would fight evil? Who would be outraged at something that fits neatly into our rational scheme of how things must work? So, if G‑d wishes us to fight evil, why would He want us to understand it? And when did He every promise He would let us understand everything we wish?

He wanted a world. A transparent world is not a world. If everywhere we would look we would see the hand of the Creator openly within each thing, where would lie the reality that defines this as a world? If the puppeteers use transparent puppets, where is the puppet show? This is a basic lesson of Chabad Chassidism: The world ("olam") is defined by concealment ("helem" — of the same etymology).

That said, please tell me, what sense does it make to sit here and refuse to take another step forward until all is explained? Explained and sitting comfortably within the mind of this particular individual at this particular time under these particular circumstances within a model with which he is currently familiar? When did G‑d sign a contract that He must fit into whatever boxes we design for Him? Who says He must fit into any box at all?

Reason itself concurs that there is a limit to reason. Indeed, the objective of all man's toil in this world is to reach higher than his own mind, higher than mind at all. Not to a place where the mind is ignored, but rather, to its essence, an essence which transcends all reality and from which all thoughts and realities come. And in all the ideas and thought and dialogue and philosophy of the world that essence cannot be found, but only in living this life and doing those things you need to do here now.

And now I must get to the real point, to all that really matters — and if I sound overly blunt, it is only because it matters so much: If you are truly horrified by what happened to our people in the last century and by the current specter of evil in our world today, then how can you continue sitting there and philosophizing? Who will benefit by your musings and ponderings? How will the world change by this? How will the Jewish people be replenished and the world filled with good, until such an atrocity could never happen again?

Another answer and another answer will not change the world. Faith will. Faith that G‑d is good and all His works are good. Faith that we can reveal that good and change the face of the world. A faith strong enough that we can face the Bauers and other cynics and say, "Yes, G‑d knew of the holocaust and could have stopped it and gave life to every nazi and breathed His soul into every death camp. And He knows the suffering of starving children and counts the tears of abused women and lies within the pain of every man — and I have no understanding of how this could be and why. But I have faith that G‑d is good. Because without that faith there is no purpose, and that is something I am not willing to accept."

With that faith, we will change the world. Our eyes will be opened, and all creatures will see that all is good, in retrospect as well. May it be very soon.