Sunday, January 02, 2005

Ours not to reason why

Dov Bear reports that
The chatterers in shul this weekend said they've heard that, among the faithful, it has been decalred that last week's disaster was sent, by God, to remind the Jewish people that slanderous talk (loshon hara) is a great evil.
Wonderful. So 120,000 Muslims, Hindus and other non-Jews had to die in order to teach the Jewish people a lesson? What a selfish worldview.
For people looking for a more profound response to this theological challenge, read British Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks in yesterday's Times (apparently, he delivered the article as a sermon from the St. John's Wood synagogue pulpit yesterday as well....). He explains that in the bible, the truly religious people (eg. Abraham, Moses, Job) have always asked why G-d allows evil to happen, but have never come up with the answer:
in the end it is not Job’s comforters, who blamed his misfortunes on his sins, who were vindicated by heaven, but Job himself, who consistently challenged God. In Judaism, faith lies in the question, not the answer.
He concludes:
The religious question is, therefore, not: “Why did this happen?” But “What then shall we do?” That is why, in synagogues, churches, mosques and temples throughout the world this weekend, along with our prayers for the injured and the bereaved, we will be asking people to donate money to assist the work of relief. The religious response is not to seek to understand, thereby to accept. We are not God. Instead we are the people He has called on us to be his “ partners in the work of creation”. The only adequate religious response is to say: “God, I do not know why this terrifying disaster has happened, but I do know what You want of us: to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send healing to the injured, and aid those who have lost their livelihoods and homes.” We cannot understand God, but we can strive to imitate His love and care.
Sounds sensible to me!

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