The events of the past six weeks – the massacre on October 7th, the kidnappings, the sudden sense of insecurity within Israel – alongside the almost immediate and massive increase in antisemitism around the world, and open calls for the end of the State of Israel in ways that we have never experienced before – have thrown many Jews for a tailspin. Many people have expressed a desire to increase their religious devotion, while others have questioned God and wondered how He could have let this happen.
Asking these questions is not a religious problem, but a vital religious necessity. Our greatest exemplars in Tanach regularly asked these questions; there are whole books, like Iyov and Eicha, that are dedicated to what we would now consider philosophical questions. Pretending that these questions don’t exist is often a sign of religious superficiality.
On the other hand, asking questions is far from easy, because we may not like the answers that we find. People who choose faith and who are also troubled by the problem of evil in the world and God’s apparently hidden presence, sometimes need chizuk – that is, encouragement and practical methods so that they can live with the unanswerable questions while moving forward in their commitment to God and Torah.
In order to facilitate this important conversation, Scott was honored to host Rabbanit Shayna Goldberg and Rabbi Johnny Solomon. Over the course of their conversation, they talked about hester panim, or God’s hiding His face, the meaning of the Talmudic dictum that everything God does is for the good, the proper type of introspection in the wake of tragedy, the meaning of bitachon or trust in God (and what it should not mean), practical methods to help people hold on to faith, and more.
This is not a detached philosophical analysis of theodicy. Instead, it is a religious conversation designed to help people who are troubled by current events, but who plan to maintain their faith, find ways to move forward without sacrificing their intellectual honesty.
(While Rabbi Solomon referenced Chapter 2 Halacha 4 of Rambam’s Hilchot Ta’aniyot as speaking about war – in contrast to Chapter 1 which speaks about other troubles (‘tzarot’) – he wanted to add that this point is made even clearer in Chapter 2 Halacha 3.)
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