I am often asked “how can we believe in God when we see so much unfairness and pain in our world?” Like the prophet Jeremiah of the Bible, they see a great discrepancy between a world in which God plays a critical role, and those occurrences that strike us, our loved ones, and good and innocent people everywhere.
Our rabbinic sages have always wrestled with this question. And while our tradition does suggest that there are “rational” reasons for why bad things happen to good people, I personally find great meaning in two Jewish concepts about God.
First, that even as God is not “all-powerful” in the sense that He controls all that happens, God is the “enabler” making life and existence possible. God is the one who makes possible our capacity to think, to feel, to grow into something more tomorrow than what we are today.
And second, there are those sages who contend that the basic idea of Judaism is not so much “faith,” but living with a sense of “awe.” The idea is that our world is filled with “miracles” that we are often unable to behold and appreciate. Personally, I experience awe with the birth and growth of a baby. I experience awe when I swim in the sea and behold magnificent fish and other forms of life. I experience awe when I look through a telescope and see Mars and Jupiter, and the billions of stars that fill our heavens.
Yes, I often wish that God would take charge and make things right. Whether a young person who endures a fatal illness, a good and loving person who battles “demons” within her mind, or any and every other form of “unfairness;” we all wonder and question and feel confusion, if not deep pain, that our prayers and wishes are not always fulfilled.
A young student went to his rabbi and asked: “How could God have created such a world in which there is so much hurt? Why I could have done a better job of creating this world myself!” The rabbi responded: “That is why God has put you here. Now go forth and do your part to make this a better world.”
Rabbi David Greenberg