Some cite the Talmud (Shabbat 55a): “No death without sin; no suffering without iniquity.” Or again: “If a man sees that he is afflicted with suffering, he should examine his deeds, as it is said, ‘Let us search and try our ways, and return unto the Lord’ (Lam. 3:40).” The Talmud adds: “Suffering is due to evil deeds or neglect of Torah study.” But all these pronouncements apply to our own suffering. If something bad happens to us we have the right to examine our actions. But our assumption of everyone else must be that they are righteous and their suffering is undeserved.
Any attempts to infuse suffering with rich meaning shows callous indifference to the heartache of fellow humans. Suffering does not leave us ennobled, empathic, or wiser. Rather, it leave us broken, morose, and bitter. And if I’m wrong and suffering is such a great teacher than why is it that any responsible parent would exert every effort to save their child from suffering?
As for the Rabbis who say that Jews are sinful and deserve to die, they make me miss the Lubavitcher Rebbe ever more. I can still close my eyes and see him, ever so clearly and well into his late eighties, pounding the table in public with all his might” “How long?” he would cry, “How long?” How long will Israeli soldiers die in defense of their homeland? Many more Jews will be dismembered by murderous bombs? Why has the Messiah not yet come? And how can anyone calling himself a Rabbi have the chutzpah to ever justify the death of innocents?
This column is dedicated to the memory of Machla Debakarov, the mother of a close friend of Rabbi Shmuley’s.