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Challenging God in the Face of Suffering and Tragedy Author: Shmuley Boteach Publisher: Gefen Publishing House
Price: $21.95 Special Price: $20.00 Format: Hard Cover ISBN 10: 9652296066 ISBN 13: 9789652296061 Catalog Number: 606-1 Number of Pages: 170 Year Published: 2012
Description: Where was the hand of G-d on 9/11? Was G-d absent from Poland in the 1940s? Does pain make us into more sensitive people? Is a person who questions G-d still righteous?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach tackles the ultimate, timeless questions that go to the heart of the human condition Ė and arrives at some surprising answers.
Drawing on numerous confrontations with God from the Bible, and using examples of appalling suffering from todayís headlines, Rabbi Shmuley argues forcibly against Rabbi Harold Kushnerís best-selling Why Bad Things Happen to Good People and boldly guides us to the conclusion that challenging God and His actions is not just our right but our foremost obligation as human beings. This revolutionary book turns millennia of mistaken belief on its head, providing a concrete action plan for emboldening ourselves against victimhood. If life has ever defeated you, or if you have ever felt let down by G-d, this is the book for you.
From the Introduction
One of the more mystifying events of the Bible involves God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. What was God thinking? After all, He was the One Who would later declare all human sacrifice (and especially child sacrifice) an abomination.
The most insightful commentary Iíve seen on this episode comes from my teacher and mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, who says the key to the story is to see Isaac not as an individual but as the Jewish religion. Who was Isaac? He was Judaism. He was the inheritor of Abrahamís convictions. He was the person who would continue Abrahamís belief system. Were Isaac to be slaughtered, everything Abraham had taught in terms of the rejection of paganism, the belief in one God, and more would be lost.
The test, therefore, was this: Would Abraham follow Godís commandment to kill off his religion or would he put his religion before Godís will? What really mattered to Abraham? God or Judaism? And if these facets of faith were put in conflict, which would Abraham choose?
The religious fanatic is the person who has ceased to serve God and has instead begun to worship a particular religion, making faith into an idol rather than the basis for a relationship with our Creator. It is in this light that we can understand how Islamic fundamentalists can be prepared to violate Godís express commandment against murder in order to strike a blow for the glory not of their deity, but of Islam. People who are in a relationship with God are humble and do their utmost to refrain from judging others. Their experience of Godís compassion leads them to be merciful and loving. Their proximity to the Perfect Being reminds them of inherent human fallibility. But what happens when those who arrogantly worship religion successfully advance the cause that their religion is more important than life itself? How do the humble and devout hold steadfast to our faith when the pain and anguish of such zealots devastates all that we as a nation Ė and as human beings Ė hold dear? How do we continue to pray to the God of our forefathers when, at times of great and unwarranted suffering, God does not act as he did in the sparing of Isaac but rather appears to do nothing to intervene? Is this not among the most asked and most unanswerable questions of our time Ė and of all time? How do we believe in God with full faith, how do we worship and serve Him with an open heart when, in our experience, God appears to willingly tolerate the suffering of His innocent creations the world over?
So many of us are searching for a reason why people suffer. We want to redeem tragedy by giving it meaning. Suffering ennobles the spirit, we say. It makes us more mature. It helps us focus on whatís important in life. I would argue that suffering has no purpose, no redeeming qualities, and any attempts to infuse it with rich significance are deeply misguided. The more we explain suffering, the more sanctuary we grant it in our lives. The less we accept it, the more we combat it. Suffering is not redemptive, it is not ennobling, it is not a blessing, and it teaches us nothing, absolutely nothing, that we could not have learned by gentler means.
The appropriate response to death is always life. And the Jewish response to suffering is to demand that God put an end to it. You may also like: