What does a baby achieve by being born with a terrible defect and suffering for a couple of days before dying? It is harsh, unfair, and cruel, and it goes against everything I am taught about G‑d.

Perhaps there is a reason, one that I am spiritually "too young" to understand, but can G‑d really blame me for taking it badly? Am I so bad if I decide to abuse this or that mitzvah when I see what appears to be G‑d abusing this or that person?

Here's a metaphor: If your father teaches you to do the right thing and never steal, and then promptly goes the store with you and steals an entire crate of goods—only to tell you: "You do not understand why I am doing this; you must never steal..." Would you blame the kid for taking a lollipop the next time he is in the store?

Perhaps a crude metaphor, but the idea is clear.


You sound like a very sensitive individual and I can understand exactly where you are coming from when you do not want to understand that there is anything positive in a young baby suffering and dying. You don't see it as something that should be done by a G‑d who is supposed to be the ultimate of goodness and kindness, and demands such behavior from us as well.

You state a metaphor of a child seeing his father performing the same behavior that he forbids for his child. I can understand that metaphor but let me change it a little.

Suppose the father says to his child not to hit people. Then the father notices that the child is about to put his finger into an electrical socket and hits his hand hard to take it away from the socket and prevent him from hurting himself. The child might feel—"hey my father warned me not to hit people, but look, he just did that to me!" But of course, the child is seeing things only from his own perspective, he is not aware of the larger picture and how his father has just helped him avoid a serious situation.

Or suppose, that same father is also this child's doctor and he knows that in order for his child to survive he needs to undergo an operation that will cut off one of the child's limbs. He performs the operation, cutting off the child's foot in the process. Again, the child can feel, "what a cruel father to have done this to me." But, in truth, the father's behavior was the greatest kindness, allowing the child to continue to live.

We do not understand G‑d's ways. It seems like a terrible cruelty to cause a young child to suffer and then die. But remember, we are merely seeing things from our small perspective and we are unaware of a larger picture, of why these things might be necessary. And even kind.

You are not alone in not understanding human suffering. The great leader of our nation, Moses, implored G‑d: "I beg you, please show me Your Glory." Moses confronts G‑d with this greatest of challenges—to see His "face," to comprehend the essence of the eternal question of all mankind, to grasp how it is feasible for the source of joy to become the source of pain.

G‑d rejects Moses with the memorable words: "You cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me and live."1

G‑d responded to Moses, that the time was not ripe – even for a man as great as he – to face the ultimate paradox and understand the Divine explanation for human suffering.

It is only something that we will understand in the future, in the time of the future redemption. For now, we must just believe that ultimately what G‑d does is good. Even if our small minds cannot comprehend how.

I would like to conclude with the words of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi in Tanya:2

"Creation occurs at every time and moment at which all created beings come into being ex nihilo through G‑d's wisdom which animates everything. Now when a man will contemplate with the depths of his understanding and pictures in his mind how he comes into being ex nihilo at every single moment, how can he entertain the thought that he is suffering, or has any afflictions related to children, life [i.e. health], and sustenance, or whatever other worldly sufferings? For . . . G‑d's wisdom is the source of life, goodness and delight; it is the Eden that transcends the World to Come. Except that, because it is not apprehensible one imagines that he is suffering, or afflicted. In truth, however, No evil descends from above, and everything is good, though it is not apprehended [as such] because of its immense and abundant goodness [at a level which is inconceivable to man].

"And this is the primary article of faith for which man was created: to believe that there is no place void of Him—and in the light of the King's countenance there is life.

"Accordingly, 'Strength and gladness are in His place,' because He is but good all the time. Therefore, first of all, man ought to be happy and joyous at every time and hour, and truly live by his faith in G‑d, Who animates him and acts kindly towards him at every moment."

Is this an easy task to accomplish? Well if it was, it wouldn't be the "primary article of faith for which man was created."

So for now we struggle, and eagerly await the day when all our questions will be conclusively answered—answers that our human mind will then be capable of fully grasping and appreciating.

Chana Weisberg for