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.