Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Theodicy and Emunah Peshutta

One topic which, to my recollection, has had very little attention on this blog  is the question why bad things happen to good people, and the converse. The closest we have come is asking Why would a Good Person make a Bad Argument (Supporting a True Conclusion)?, which isn't really that similar. The reason for this omission is fairly straightforward, its because the question isn't one which bothers me that much on an intellectual level.

On an emotional level it can bother me a great deal at times, as I alluded to here.

To me the response to the question is a quintessential example of emunah peshutta, simple faith, and particularly my understanding of emunah peshutta. If we have reason to believe that there is a Creator (which I believe we do) and we have reason to believe that He gave us the Torah (which I believe we do) then we should take Him at His word that He is beneficent and accept that while it may not be obvious how, the world is ultimately just.

Of course that isn't the end of the story, there are many hashkafic issues that can, and probably should, be considered. Certainly there are other aspects of this question that some may find more comfort in while they actually experience suffering, but I believe they all are predicated on this fundamental idea.


Micha Berger said...

IMHO, I think this post reflects a very common misunderstanding of what emunah peshutah is.

To my mind, emunah peshutah isn't an uncomplicated understanding that there is a G-d. Such as R' Avigdor Miller's exercise of contemplating how much He packed into a tiny apple seed. In contrast to the complicated proofs one finds in the 2nd section of Moreh Nevuchim.

I would instead say emunah peshutah is the faith portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof's Tevye the Milkman. Hashem is constantly present in Tevye's world; when his horse's leg breaks, Tevye turns his eyes heavenward and asks why. He is constantly talking with G-d, "... like the Good Book says ... do I have to tell You what the Good Book says?"

Machashavah is knowing that there is a G-d. Emunah is knowing G-d, the way one knows a friend or a parent.

Theodicy (tzadiq vera lo) poses a problem for machashavah, but not for emunah. When Avraham avinu hears of the eminent punishment of Sodom vaAmora does it make him doubt G-d? When Moshe Rabbeinu hears Hashem threatening to replace Benei Yisrael with a new nation -- Benei Moshe, does he question Hashem's existence? Of couse not!

Instead, actually, they did what most of us in relationships do when they think the other part is being unfair. They complain. Perhaps even get angry.

in the vanguard said...

There are so many instances where the good guy apparently gets hurt while the bad guy is fre of suffering; Plenty - for us Jews across the decades, centuries and millennia in exile.

As we say during the Haftara on fast-days, "Our thoughts are not Your thoughts, etc"

Of course this is a matter of belief that Hashem is purely and genuinely good - otherwise you can pack the Torah and kiss it goodbye - God forbid.

It will be, as Isaiah (12:1) says, we will thank God for having made us suffer - once we discover the good that actually spawned what we thought was bad.

Kol tuv!