Recently, a young man of my acquaintance passed away. He was one of those people who seemed to have everything going for him...a great, successful career doing what he loved, a loving wife and family, and wonderful friendships. I never met him personally, but based on what I know of his courageous struggle with his disease and the sincere outpouring of sorrow not just from his family but those he knew and worked with, he was a good, decent and loving human being who seems to have left this earth far too soon. He had yet to have his 40th birthday.
In Israel just a few days before that, one of the Arabs whom call themselves Palestinians broke into the bedroom of a 13-year-old Israeli girl who never did harm to him or anyone else and happily murdered her. He was shot down after he attacked another human being, but in his mind and the mind of the Palestinian Authority, its schools, mosques and media, he was a hero, a jihad warrior and a martyr doing Allah's will. Not only that, but to his family, he represented a handsome financial stipend.
I can't get her mother's anguished cry at her funeral out of my mind..."How do you say goodbye to your 13-year-old child?"
Is there any way to answer that?
If G-d exists, why does He allow such things to happen? Or to use the old cliche,why do bad things happen to good people? And it's even more interesting to turn that one around...why do good things seem to happen to those whom do evil, if a truly just G-d exists? Is it all just random? Does G-d exist at all or is He just a convenient fable man thought up with many names and guises to explain the inexplicable? Karl Marx referred to religion as 'the opiate of the masses.' Is G-d simply a fairy tale, just a ploy by the ruling classes to keep people in line?
As a reasonably observant Jew, one example that's always thrown at me by people when this sort of thing comes up is the Holocaust. Millions of Jews, many of them quite religious were murdered in the most brutal fashion imaginable. Whole Rabbinic dynasties going back centuries were wiped out. Even the most predatory beasts do not engage in such behavior at their worst. And in the end, only a handful of the perpetrators and their many enablers were ever punished in any way. If a loving, just G-d truly exists, how could he possibly allow that?
I can't say I know all the answers, nor frankly, would I really wish to. One of my favorite spiritual quotes comes from Ramakrishna, who wrote that a G-d who can be explained is no G-d at all. Or as one of the pithier Jewish sages once said, "If I understood G-d, I'd be G-d."
There's a great deal of insight there, I think. Given the nature of G-d as defined by every major faith, how could we possibly judge Him by our human standards?
Another thing I've realized over time and with study is that G-d simply plays on a much bigger field than we do. By nature, our perceptions are limited. We simply don't see the big universal picture, the Divine Plan and the reasons certain things might need to happen that seem random good or evil to us. And our view of such things is limited to what happens in this physical world. We have no view as to what happens in the next world, its judgements and designs.
Take the Holocaust, for instance.
I would not remotely represent that I of all people have the answer, but here are a couple of things to consider.
The Nazis considered the extermination of the Jews a government policy and a war aim. They spent millions of reichmarks, tons of badly needed building materials like concrete, valuable fuel, hours upon hours of manpower and sizeable amounts of numerous other resources pursuing this goal. There are number of documented instances where trains bearing badly needed munitions, tanks, medical supplies and even Wehrmacht troops were delayed, sometimes for days to allow trains headed to the extermination camps to go before them. In some cases, even hospital trains containing German wounded were sidelined by shipments to places like Auschwitz and Bergen-Belson. Those took priority.
Imagine if Hitler had simply left the Jews alone? General Rommel, the German commander in Normandy complained constantly about the lack of concrete and other materials to build up his defenses. With the concrete, fuel, production capacity, metal and manpower that would have been available if the Holocaust had not occurred, what would the Atlantic Wall the Allies attacked on D-Day have been like? How much stronger might it have been? How many more tanks, planes and U-boats might have been constructed? How effective,perhaps even successful would the campaign against the Russians or Hitler's Afrika Corps and their efforts to capture Suez and link up with Nazi forces in the Caucasus have been?
The allies didn't fight WWII to save the Jews, but if there hadn't been some knowledge of the Nazi's atrocities and what that presaged for Britain, would they have come to an agreement with Hitler instead of going to war, as Stalin did? Would America, with its strong isolationist movement been motivated to do Lend-Lease and supply Britain with so much aid, let alone get into a de facto war with the Nazis in the North Atlantic well before Pearl Harbor?
And after the war was over, when the world saw the results of the Holocaust with their own eyes and much of it finally was confronted its own guilt for at best turning their back on the Jews..without that, would the world have defied Britain's wishes and recognized Israel at the UN in 1948?
Both the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible accept the messianic prophecies in Isaiah and Ezekiel, that say clearly that the Jews returning to the land G-d gave them is part of the Divine Plan. Was the Holocaust G-d's way of ensuring Hitler's defeat and the Jew's return to Israel after 2000 years of exile, something unheard of ever before in history? Did those Nazis and their many enablers escape judgement in this world only to face far harsher judgement in the next? Did their victims receive comfort,justice and great rewards there for their unspeakable suffering? We have no way of knowing, only faith in G-d's ultimate promise of justice.
Does G-d give us warnings because we're slow learners and need tragedy to awaken us to danger and the need to take action? With the murder of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel, the government of Israel defied the Obama Administration and the EU's disapproval by announcing major building projects in Jerusalem as well as Judea and Samaria. And the Knesset has also decided that Israel will now confiscate out of the tax monies Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority a sum equivalent to the amount Mahmoud Abbas and the PA pay out as stipends to convicted murderers in Israeli jails, as well as other measures that show that Israelis are finally getting the message about the 'Palestinians' and those whom condemn each atrocity but continue to fund the PA kleptocracy.
For that matter,since Hallel Yaffe Ariel had dual U.S. citizenship, congress is already on the verge of passing legislation that will reduce American funding to the PA by a similar amount...and with enough votes hopefully to override an Obama veto.
And speaking of Obama and Mrs. Clinton, is their ascendancy a warning to us to change our ways and our direction in an election year? Have the eight years of President Obama's term been designed to push us in the direction to make that change?
I honestly don't know if Hallel Yaffe Ariel's tragic murder was a message. But as I said, it's obvious G-d simply plays on a much bigger field than we do, and that good and evil may have very different meanings and even different purposes in the Divine context then the ones we think they do.
Does G-d sometimes take souls into the next world for purposes we have no understanding of? I have no doubt of that. Why is a different question,although I have a few thoughts on that as well I'd just as soon not go into here.
Nor do I have any doubt at all that that next world beyond our own exists, simply because I received, without going into details, a very clear glimpse of that existence at a very young age when I least expected it. That world's exact nature en toto is beyond my knowledge, but it definitely is as real as the one we perceive. The ancient Hindus referred to what we see in the physical world as maya, illusion. Many figures in history have recorded their own perception of that world beyond the one we see.
In the end, we're left with speculation, and I think that's as it should be.
Having been fortunate to experience G-d's mercy and intervention in my own life at various times (including some times when I didn't realize it or appreciate it properly until much later), I believe in His ultimate goodness and His Divine purpose. The alternative would be to depend on man's goodness or to believe in random chaos, and both seem flawed to me and contradict my own experience in the matter.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson once wrote in one of his scintillating commentaries that G-d is only as interested in us as we are in Him. I've been interested in G-d for years, and all I can say is I recommend making His acquaintance. He always answers, and you never get put on hold or sent to voicemail. But sometimes the answer is different than the one you wanted. Or maybe it's the one you need whether you know it or not.
This long, rambling essay is something recent events brought out of me, and I apologize for its length but I have a feeling you weren't bored. As for the old problem of good and evil, again they may very well be quite different than we perceive them as....necessary tools suited for us and our level of understanding.
And death? A send off to a different plane entirely. A new beginning rather than an end...
"Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,
He hath awaken'd from the dream of life;
'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit's knife
Invulnerable nothings. We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world's slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain;
Nor, when the spirit's self has ceas'd to burn,With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.
He lives, he wakes—'tis Death is dead, not he;
Mourn not for Adonais. Thou young Dawn,
Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;
Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!
Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air,
Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown
O'er the abandon'd Earth, now leave it bareEven to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!" *
* From Percy Bysshe And Marry Shelly's Adonaïs