Saturday, September 03, 2005

What G-d wants us to learn from Hurricane Katrina

Rabbi Steinmetz has an excellent response to those claiming that the Hurricane was punishment for disengagement, or anything else:
These finger pointing explanations are not only deeply flawed, they are also deeply insensitive. The Talmud says that anyone who gives a grieving person an “interpretation” explaining that the victim’s sins caused his own suffering has violated the prohibition of verbal abuse. Many Jewish philosophers wrestle with the question of theodicy (why bad things happen to good people), and some explanations consider man’s culpability. However, what is misunderstood is that their explorations are meant to defend God’s goodness, not to torment victims of suffering by blaming them for the crime.
In fact, even the entire project of defending God’s goodness is suspect. First of all, God does not need a defense attorney; He can make a case for himself. And God continues to make a case for himself in every sunrise, every leaf, every breath we take...
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik offers a very different view of a Jewish response to suffering. He says the “why” question, why bad things happen to good people, is unfathomable. It’s like trying to appreciate the beauty of a tapestry from the reverse side; you simply cannot make out an intelligible design. Any exploration of the “why” question is simply a dead end. Even worse, any answer offered will imply that we should passively accept our fate and assume that God did everything for the best. Soloveitchik points out that on the contrary, Judaism actually refuses to make peace with death and tragedy. When someone dies, Halacha requires that we mourn bitterly and tear our clothes. This is because Judaism demands that we be enraged by tragedy.
To Solovietchik, the real question that has to be asked is the “how” question: How do I respond to tragedy? We do not know why the world contains unexplained evil; however, we can endeavor to make the world a better place. Our obligation in the face of a catastrophe is to act: to comfort and aid those who have suffered, and to use human ingenuity to prevent future catastrophes. The only Jewish response to tragedy is tikkun olam, rebuilding the world.
Read the whole thing here.

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