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< Q12.46 TOC Q12.48 >

Question 12.47:
What is the religious view of the Shoa? Why did G-d let this happen and all the suffering of the children of Israel throughout the centuries?


The question you ask is one that has been asked over the generation, and there are many good books touching on the subject (such as Rabbi Lawrence Kushner's, "Why do bad things happen to good people?". I asked an Orthodox friend of mine, and I truly liked his answer, because I think it touches upon a fundamental aspect of our relationship with G-d and a key notion of Judaism, one that is emphasized during the high holy days.

The underlying idea is that G-d doesn't dictate everything that happens: we are given a choice. This is emphasized in the reading from Deut. on the high holy days, where we are given the choice between good and evil, life and death, and told that we should choose life and good. G-d doesn't make the choice for us -- it is our choice. If human beings didn't have free will, if we were merely automata running by hard-and-fast rules, there would be no suffering because there would be no one to suffer. This indicates that free will is therefore a higher priority to G-d than avoiding the tragic and evil. It also means that in order for there to be people who are capable of being aware of being treated well, and are capable of enjoying it, there has to be the potential for people to choose to be "Nazis" and cause suffering.

To put it more abstractly:

The ultimate good that G-d created us to receive isn't a happy or easy life, it's the ability to be in His "Image", to be self-defined the way He is. This is what we call "free will", the ability to choose what to do, who to be. If the world and the people in it were perfect, there would be no room for us to improve ourselves and the lot of others. G-d therefore left things imperfect and incomplete, and called upon man to finish the job.

People then have the opportunity to do good, and complete creation, thus being more like the Creator. Or, to choose otherwise and cause more pain and suffering. Without the choice, we wouldn't be in G-d's Image. And without being in G-d's Image, all the good in the universe would be meaningless.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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