GOD'S JUSTICE: Why Believe in Him?
Reader: Why should one believe in God?
Rabbi: Judaism does not "believe" in God, but "knows" that a Creator exists. This is based on Revelation at Sinai.
Reader: Why should one believe that God is good and does good, when we observe an imperfect world with much suffering? With times of famine, disease, wars, the Holocaust and every day problems? Why does He either allow these things, or Himself makes such things in the World?
Rabbi:While we can't answer everything, or know if or when God intended some event without clear miracles, we do know that God created an abundance of good for mankind. He created mankind. He created necessary air, water and food, and materials for clothing and shelter. He even created their quantity in proportion to our needs. Air is most vital, so it is everywhere. Water is required next, and it too is plentiful. Foods are inexpensive and grown anywhere with a little labor. And wood, stones and dirt for shelter, and clothing materials are next in availability. And He created such varied tastes for our pleasure. He also created beautiful scenery, flowers and birds of song. He created us with a psychological design precisely that we experience joy, such as the sunrise, nature. He crafted our emotions in a manner that we can invent and appreciate music, and that we enjoy friends and family. He implanted in us so many emotions that are pleasurable. He created the phenomenon of healing, physically and mentally. And most of all He created us with intellect to enjoy His immense wisdom that He permeated throughout the universe. Einstein marveled that man's intellect can grasp the wisdom of the universe.
We understand God is good. What seems bad to us, is what man brings upon himself, and not what God does. God desires we use free will and choose our choices. He doesn't stand in the way of what we choose.
We cannot answer why He allowed the Holocaust; we do not know His mind. But Torah does warn of God hiding Himself from us when our actions fall below a certain positive threshold. And even when calamity strikes, God has no shortage of means to save those He wishes to save. Noah and his family were saved from the Flood, the Jews did not receive certain Plagues, Lote was saved from Sodom, and the list goes on. King David's Ashray recounts God's justice. He was extremely wise and had no question about God's justice. We must pause and consider why he viewed God as perfectly righteous and just. It must be due to King David's accurate knowledge of history. And God taught Abraham His justice regarding Sodom, so he might teach others. God desires justice be spread.
Maimonides cites Torah verses to prove that God's providence is in line with perfect justice; each person receiving what he deserves based on his perfection. And as he says, there are those who receive no protection from God, and experience what harm might come there way due to their lack of perfection. Additionally, even good people who make poor choices, at times suffer the consequences that nature brings. A righteous man lacking business acumen might become very excited about a business venture, fail to study it properly, that he invests too much, and loses it all. God does not prevent our use of free will. But in this same case, the "intelligent" righteous man will discover areas of risk and invest with greater discretion, limiting his losses, or not investing at all. And if the matter is not in man's control, God will step in to protect those who have reached a certain level of perfection.
We know all the good God performed in saving the Jews from Egypt, and in countless other cases He performed with His prophets.
The rule is that God does good for man. If leaders ran this imperfect world properly and teachers spoke up more, there would be far less heartache, crime and war. We need to point the finger at ourselves, not God. And I repeat, when we arrive at questions like the Holocaust, it is wise that we review how the Prophets and our brilliant leaders approached the subject. That is, they did not discount all God’s goodness due to a question.
What shall we do when we can't answer some questions? Does this in any way alter the Torah's correctness of being charitable, honest, just and treating others equally? Do our questions turn Torah truths into falsehoods? Of course not. What is true or proper remains that way. So although we cannot answer everything, we must follow what makes sense; Torah commands and lessons are based on reality, reason and proper morality.
Reader: Where does it say our Egyptian bondage was a response to our idolatry? I always thought it's about the Covenant with Avraham and God telling him that his children will be slaves in a land that is not theirs.
Rabbi: Sforno (Gen. 15:13) says the Prophet Ezekiel blamed the Jews' idolatry as the cause of the bondage in Egypt: "But they rebelled against me and would not hearken to Me; they did not — every man — cast away the detestable things of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt; then I said I would pour out My fury upon them in the midst of the land of Egypt (Ezek. 20:8)." Sforno adds (ibid) that the while tribes (Jacob's sons) were alive, no servitude began, as they were righteous individuals. Thus, the Jews lived in Egypt freely and without sin, for a while. Eventually they were attracted to the Egyptian idolatry, as Ezekiel teaches, and were oppressed due to God's will, as punishment.
Reader: Anyway, even if it was idolatry…what about the children born into slavery?
Rabbi: God can save anyone who raised himself above idolatry. Perhaps the children too followed in their parents' sin. In fact, the Levites were not oppressed, and they were the one's following the righteous ways of our ancestors; the patriarchs and matriarchs.
Reader: Children who have not yet sinned are born retarded (literally) or with injuries etc. Their are many many examples of injustice. The "kabbalists" at least provide simple answers in that those were "reincarnated sinners" and one cannot disprove them because we cannot go back.
Rabbi:: So anything unproven like reincarnation, is acceptable to you? You cannot prove that a rabbit's foot "wont" protect you, so walk in traffic blindfolded carrying a rabbit's foot! But you won't, since you do not truly believe your argument, the evidence being that you do not live this way. Might you be trying to escape following God with these questions?
Children born with injuries many times are due to alcoholic or drug-abusive mothers. Nature has a definite system. I have seen these children live happily, they aren't as sad as you think. God designed people to accept who they are. And many times these children surpass the achievements of others. Some born without legs use prosthetics and race in the olympics.
Retarded children may simply remain "happy children " their entire "adult" lives. God knows how to treat an innocent soul.
But your error is in asking on the minority of cases. You fail to realize that most of the time, children are born healthy, and the Torah shows how the wicked are punished and the righteous are saved.
Kind David and the prophets were wiser than us. Why didn't they have your questions? Please answer this to yourself.
Reader: Also how do you answer those who do not pray, do not keep Shabbat and other things…and they still get what they want and need. While those who live properly are not getting answered. Therefore, why not be a Rasha instead?
Rabbi: Study Koheles to learn how all the wealth, possessions, servants and drinking could not satisfy King Solomon. He experimented on himself as a lesson for mankind. He saw through the facade of such a vexed life. A rasha harms himself. He corrupts his values and only momentarily feels pleasure. But even that pleasure is not happiness. He then forfeits his eternal life through all his sins. Whereas one who engages in wisdom finds the greatest satisfaction in life, despite not being wealthy.
See Rashi on Mizmor shir lyom shabbos. He explains that wicked people who did some good, receive their reward in this life. And righteous people who did some wrong, get their punishment here.
There's more to discuss, but please see a recent article where I addressed God's justice: mesora.org/jewishtimes (issue #439).
In truth, God is not only just, but He is kind, generous, charitable, merciful and all the accolades placed upon Him by King David in Ashray. Additionally, King David's praises are in the absolute sense: "Abundant" kindness; God is good to "all"; His mercy is on "all" His works; He supports "all" who fall; He straightens "all" who are bent over…etc. The lesson is that nothing prevents God from doing complete good to all who are deserving.
Study the Torah; you will find God's laws govern the utmost sensitivity, like returning collateral to a poor man so he can cover himself at night. Not cursing parents. Not speaking Lashon Hara. Not taking revenge, and removing hatred from one's heart. Loving the convert, and not abusing widows and orphans. Breaking Shabbos for health purposes. Judges must not show any bias. "Righteousness, righteousness you must chase (Deut. 16:20)."