Tuesday, May 02, 2006

How could Hashem do that?

Gil at Hirhurim has a post on holocaust theodicy. Reading through the comments to that post I am amazed at how well some people think they understand G-d's ways. Moshe Rabainu asked Hashem to show him His ways. According to many meforshim, he was asking to understand why righteous people sometimes suffer while wicked people seem to live the good life. Hashem only answered him in part. A little bit of intellectual humility is certainly in order in any discussion of why Hashem acts in the way that He does.

Now for my own holocaust theodicy.

Avos 4:15

רבי ינאי אומר:
אין בידינו לא משלות הרשעים ואף לא מיסורי הצדיקים.

Rabbi Yannai used to say: It is not in our power to explain the well-being of the wicked or the sorrows of the righteous. (Translation courtesy of this site.)

Rav Hirsch expounds on this mishna:

Not only can we not explain the well being of the wicked or the sorrows of the righteous, we can not confidently declare any event to be either good or bad. We simply do not know what the long term plan is.

Dovid Hamelech says:
ו מַה-גָּדְלוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ יְהוָה; מְאֹד, עָמְקוּ מַחְשְׁבֹתֶיךָ. 6 How great are Thy works, O LORD! Thy thoughts are very deep.
ז אִישׁ-בַּעַר, לֹא יֵדָע; וּכְסִיל, לֹא-יָבִין אֶת-זֹאת. 7 A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.
ח בִּפְרֹחַ רְשָׁעִים, כְּמוֹ עֵשֶׂב, וַיָּצִיצוּ, כָּל-פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן: לְהִשָּׁמְדָם עֲדֵי-עַד. 8 When the wicked spring up as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they may be destroyed for ever.

Rav Shimon Schwab explains this with a moshel:

On a trip to Florida, you visit Cape Canaveral. You are chosen to take a tour of an actual space shuttle. After being shown in to the cockpit, you stare in amazement at the vast array of dials, lights and buttons. After a few seconds you point to one little light and you ask the guide "Why is that light there? Shouldn't it be a little higher, like on the next row"?

Obviously, that's a stupid question. Not only don't you have a working knowledge of space shuttle technology, you don't even have a clue what that light is for! If you really want to understand why that light is where it is, first spend the time understanding the intricacies of shuttle technology and then you can begin to ask the questions.

That should be our approach to trying to understand Hashem's actions. Spend a lifetime immersed in the study of His torah and then begin asking the questions.