The idea that the divine punishes people or allows terrible things to befall them because they don't observe commandments seems to me so out of touch with the reality of everyday life. Down through history, the Jewish people have been some of the most committed to their faith of any peoples, which is why they have kept an identity. Yet they have suffered terribly. I mean, can any of us really believe that the pogroms of the past, or the horror of the Holocaust, were because of a lack of Jewish commitment? If so, what a cruel monster people worship. And then I think of all the non-observant Jews who live in peace and prosperity in safer parts of the world such as much of America. Are they merely waiting for the other shoe to drop? Or is there in fact no shoe, because the divine doesn't drop shoes? I prefer the view of the divine in Life of Pi, whereby everything in the world–the whole of nature–is all part of the divine. There is no punishment, no inflicting of horror. Humans do these things, not the divine. In which case being observant or not becomes a matter of choice and enjoyment of tradition and the connection it fosters, not a means of avoiding "getting it in the neck." Surely Judaism is able to rise above the punitive ideas of the divine held by the likes of the deceased Falwell or still living Pat Robertson, who blamed 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina (which I went through) on divine punishment–somehow ignoring the fact that, if the divine did it, it missed that cesspool of wickedness known as Bourbon Street and instead clobbered churches and temples! A bad shot? No, a bad idea.
Well said. It's sad that as bad things happen to people, you have these false teachers going around telling others that it was because of sin in their lives. It's bad enough to pretend to be G-d or to be arrogant enough to think you know His will, but to pile it on when people are already devastated is just being a jerk. Guys like Falwell, Robertson, and Fred Phelps are just as bad as false prophets if not worse. And it's refreshing to see men like the Rabbi Blau who, despite tons of education, still have the humility to say that they don't know everything and the decency to just say "sometimes bad stuff happens to good people" without sticking it to anybody.