Thursday, March 24, 2011


Hard Questions – Part 1

A reader sent some of the hardest questions of all…

Reb Akiva,
Don't get me wrong I have emunah that Hashem runs the world and there is a plan for everything. But when horrible tragedies such as the recent bombing in Yerushalayim & the brutal murder of the Fogel family come to mind, I find it would seem almost cruel to explain how these tragedies jive with the beautiful passuk of טוב ה' לַכּל. וְרַחֲמָיו עַל כָּל מַעֲשיו. I believe everything is part of Hashem's plan and hope iy"H these tragedies are just build-up to the ultimate Geula, but does having emunah mean we explain what happened as "טוב" and say these too are acts of Hashem's mercy? How does one explain to Tamar Fogel or for that matter anyone who does not have a good grasp in this area, that this was good? Or just that simply there is a reason behind them, that we cannot begin to understand the way Hashem works and iy"H at 120 we will be able to see these tragedies as merciful & good in the bigger scheme of the world? I can accept that this was Hashem's will and that I don't understand His ways, but for people to whom that is not enough how can one possibly explain?

Thank you so much. Iy"H we should only hear good news and merit to see Mashiach B'meheyra B'yameinu!

I’m receiving this question while being in Israel as things are heating up and getting up close and personal.  I was in Jerusalem when the recent bomb attack occurred and Rabbi Nati was rounding the corner heading to the bus stop that was attacked (receiving some temporary ear damage from the blast).  Several of my children were possibly in transit passing that station (they weren’t nearby) and a seminary in my neighborhood had a student seriously injured.

My older daughter called me up freaking out today as she was in range (but not impacted) by a Grad rocket strike.

While logically and emunah wise I know it’s safer in Israel that outside, facing these situations up close and personal is a new experience, one that I’m still adjusting to.

So we’re going to answer this in two parts.  Part one I’ve asked Reb Gutman Locks to prepare an answer, and part two will be another answer prepared by me.

Reb Gutman Locks responds…


      You are right, and we can never fully understand the ways of Hashem, especially not in these kinds of tragedies. But there are three things that we need to remember at times like these.

1)    There is no way that we can comfort the mourners. These were not elderly Jews who had lived their full years in goodness who passed away. They were cruelly ripped from us in their youth, or prime of life. But, we are told, to not even try to comfort the mourners while their dead are lying before them. Our words will only make their pain grow. We can only share in their sorrow.

2)    Some thirty years ago, I was in the North when some arab terrorist stuck. We were on a trip, and the knitted-kipa (yarmulke) tour-guide told us something that I have never been able to accept, but it seems that he may have been right. He said, “When Hashem wants a korban (sacrifice) he takes only the purest souls.” I have always chaffed at this one, but I see no other way to explain these insanely cruel murders.

3)    Third, and in my opinion the most important thing to remember is, when we are attacked, we must fight back even harder. As we saw yesterday with the senseless bomb blast, in this war we are all on the front line. No one is exempt from this danger, and no one is exempt from having to help. Each of us must do our share to destroy this enemy. Okay, so not all of us have tanks or guns, but we all have G-d’s commandments.

    Every time we do a mitzvah we strengthen the entire Jewish people. The Jewish people have always been judged as a single people. Our troubles and our blessings come to all of us. So when we do even one mitzvah, or help even a single Jew, we strengthen the entire body. This is even more true when we help to bring another Jew to a mitzvah.

    When we are struck, we must turn our sorrow and pain into action. Do not let these murdering animals win. If we sit and whimper, they have won. If their insane evil pushes us to fight back even harder, then they have lost. Look to see who you can help. Do not be lazy in this war, or evil will (G-d forbid) win. See how many Jews you can help, how many homeless Jews you can hand a food pack, how many girls you can teach to light Shabbos candles. Look around, you will be happily surprised with all of the opportunities you will have to help. Encourage others to help, too. G-d wants us to win, but He doesn’t want to give us victory without our effort.

Be well,


  1. If someone is asking why bad things have to happen, especially to good people, my advice is to read the whole book of Job, especially chapters 32-42. This is a must for anyone asking these types of questions.

  2. well stated reb gutman. the "pure sacrifice' idea is repeated by some prominent rabbis today. i have difficulty with it also. but as i pondered the commentaries on shemini, it made me wonder. the ari zt'l idea re tikkunim for gilgulim (rectifications for other lives) makes the most sense. the hard part for me was the idea of comforting someone with the 'sacrifice' idea. perhaps not a good move? depending on the person and situation. after reading shemini mefarshim and what it meant when aaron was doing it was for all of israel...who knows? we don't understand Hashem's ways.
    it was very good how you stated that we can't comfort mourners when they are looking at their dead, just share in their suffering. this is excellent advice. as is your advice on how to strengthen ourselves and others through torah/mitzvot and different ways of 'fighting back'


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