We have seen the images of massive destruction. People’s lives completely uprooted by a horrific hurricane, causing one of our congregants to question: “Rabbi, why do these bad things happen to good people?”
I wish I had a satisfying answer to the same question that I also ask from time to time. Why is it all too often, some terrible affliction comes upon good and innocent people who are simply going about their lives, and who surely do not deserve the suffering that befalls them?
Maimonides was a 13th century rabbi and philosopher. He is famed for his wisdom and his “rational” approach to life, and the questions that we ask about what seems to be the unfairness of life.
These are his words that apply to all who have suffered the impact of Hurricane Dorian:
“The first category (of evil) is that of natural evils which befall man, such as landslides, earthquakes, and floods…The cause of this type of evil is the fact that man has a body which is subject to decay and destruction. This is in accordance with natural law and is necessary for the continuance and permanence of the species.”
Yes, nature has its own laws and patterns that sometimes collide with our human quest for life and tranquility. And for sure, there are times when bad things do happen to good people. For Maimonides, there is no blaming God for such disasters which are inherent to nature. Only to realize that there are great powers beyond our own, and that to be human is to be vulnerable and near-helpless in the face of those powers.
So where is God when such a disaster strikes? For me, God is in the strength and resilience of people who are determined to rebuild and begin life anew. God is in the image of people, in the midst of sorrow and tragedy, serving and strengthening each other. God is in the people who are sharing what little they have salvaged with their neighbors, not knowing when or if they will have their next meal or shelter.
Yes, as we share and care in response to human suffering do we bring out the best of what God created us to be. So may we strengthen each other as we each confront the challenges and trials that come with being alive.
I wish you Shabbat Shalom with the hope that those who suffer at the present time will discover some measure of peace, and resolve to go forth with life.