The Problem of Evil




    Shifra Vepua

    The Problem of Evil

    When you go out on mivtzoyim, you get asked a lot of fundamental questions about Judaism ● One of the most common questions people ask is, “Why do so many bad things happen in the world?” ● An article by D.J. Granovetter ● Read More

    By: D.J. Granovetter 

    Anyone who goes on mivtzoyim is familiar with the fact that you get asked a lot of fundamental questions about Judaism – and a lot of folks you meet who ask these questions consider themselves “non-believers.” (Though of course, there is no such thing, for we are all “believers, the children of believers.”)

    A very common question I’m asked a lot on mivtzoyim is, “Why does G-d allow so many bad things to happen in the world?” Many such folks are unwilling to put on tefillin, because this questions bothers them so much that it challenges their faith in G-d. Some even go so far as to say, “I don’t believe that G-d exists, and if He does, He would not allow so many bad things to happen.”

    I’ve discussed this question with friends of mine, many who have an answer ready: “It’s true that many bad things happen in the world, but we don’t understand the ways of G-d, and ultimately, everything He does is for the good.”

    However, that answer tends to rub a lot of people the wrong way. They get frustrated, and start interjecting more questions, getting more and more emotional:

    “But why does G-d allow innocent children to get sick and die?”

    “But why does G-d allow so much hunger and poverty in the world?”

    The problem with the above answer is that it’s not really an answer. And those who ask this question want to hear an answer.

    I would like to share an answer that I give – an answer that actually challenges their question, and reveals that the question itself is not an honest one.

    Let’s say you believe that because there’s so much evil in the world, therefore G-d does not exist.

    But if G-d does not exist, then how do you define good and evil?

    It is G-d who defines good and evil. Without G-d, it is up to human beings to do so.

    But human beings can’t define good and evil. When you leave the definition up to human beings, you wind up with nothing more than subjective opinion.

    If something “bad” happens, is it truly, objectively “bad?” It isn’t. It’s just that you don’t like it.

    As we know, throughout history, many have committed the hugest atrocities, believing that what they were doing was good. In the time of World War II, for instance, millions of Germans supported the Nazis. They actually believed that the Nazis were good!

    For nearly a century, millions of people all over the world believed that communism was good. Today, almost no one does.

    The definition of good and evil cannot be left in the hands of human beings. In which case there is only one other option: To leave it up to G-d.

    The moment you take G-d out of the picture, your question of why do so many bad things happen is invalid. With G-d out of the picture, there is no objective good or evil.

    The fact that you believe in good and evil automatically shows that in reality, you believe in G-d.


    D.J. Granovetter is the author of the Chassidic Adventure Classics.


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    1. Chavah

      It doesnt really answer the question. I believe in Hashem and this rubbed me the wrong way.

    2. Rabbi Dovid Morris

      I agree, this was not an answer. It was addressing whether the person really believes or not, but not the question of why, “if” G-d exists, He allows all the bad (certainly how it is felt by us) things to happen?
      Even if you convince the person that he believes (this too is very doubtful from this argument, even though he does indeed believe), he will still have the question, why does G-d allow bad to happen. He might even then “progress” to questioning whether G-d is good, G-d forbid. If he exists, and allows, then……
      So a different approach is needed. His friends’ answer is closer, but still unacceptable. Although I am a believer, I am not happy AT ALL with our options on this one. Unfortunately, the “best” we have is the Rebbe’s approach – he is also not happy about this issue, even as he believes 100%: I heard live the Rebbe ask/”answer” the following one of the nights of Succos, after maariv, from the aron hakodesh, more than 30 years ago (paraphrased and in extreme brevity):
      Why does there have to be suffering in the world? Chassidus gives the answer about Yisron haor min hachoshech [in this context: the benefit to the light when contrasted to the darkness, and moreso, the addition to the light FROM the darkeness converted], but this is insufficient, because, since G-d is a kol yochol [omnipotent], He could have created even this advantage, and still without the suffering [the advantage of the darkness without the darkness!]. So the only answer we have is that Hashem wanted there to be ONE thing that we have to accept totally 100% on faith alone, because we cannot understand it intellectually. We have emunah peshuta that Hashem is good, and that all this is for the best. And will remain thus until we hear from Hashem by the geulah why He did this. But we will not give Him an answer, and excuse. We believe, but we will indeed ask…He will have an answer, but we will have to wait.
      The rebbe was weeping like a child the whole time he said the above…”why does there have to be suffering?!”
      I was amazed to realize that the inference is that the rebbe understands everything else, but not this. This EVERYBODY has to rely on simple faith. The rebbe also is broken about the suffering. It doesn’t change the faith, which has its own proofs etc. But we also cannot make up an answer for what we do not have one for.
      We have fulfilled what Hashem wants – that we BELIEVE, and let Him immediately send the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach back in a revealed way to affect the complete geulah with the total end to all suffering!!!!

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