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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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SILENCE IS FOR LAMBS

Where Was God When Sandy Hook’s Children Died?

Challenging God in the face of suffering is not blasphemous.
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I know he was trying to be comforting, but President Obama’s comments at Sandy Hook about God perpetuates the myth that we humans ought to always see God in the role of comforter. God is supposed to be our protector and, Biblically, we’re supposed to challenge God in the face of suffering rather than believe that innocent people dying is somehow His will.

After reading the first names of all the twenty children who were murdered, here is what President Obama said:

God has called them all home… May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place.  May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort.  And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America. 

Called them home? What? Their home is with their parents in Connecticut, not at the divine throne in heaven.

“His holy comfort”? Who wants that? We want these kids alive and well, not in some substitute comfort.

May God “bless and watch over this community.” Wait a second. Was he watching when Adam Lanza shot each of these children multiple times? And if He was, which I, as a religious man firmly believe, then why didn’t He stop it?

Obviously, this isn’t about President Obama. It’s about a prevalent and fraudulent belief in world religion, captured in the President’s otherwise moving speech, that when tragedy strikes our first impulse should be to defend God rather than rail and thunder against the injustice of it all. God’s first role is not supposed to be as our consoler-in-chief. Rather, He’s supposed to be our foremost guardian. If He could split the Red Sea than He can stop a ‪.223-caliber Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle’s bullets. If He could bring down the walls of Jericho then He could have made the walls of the Sandy Hook school impregnable to monsters. And if he could revive the dead with Elisha, then He could preserve the life of these small children.

Why God is silent and seemingly absent in the face of so much suffering is the real question about the Sandy Hook massacre. These kids were innocent. Does God not promise to protect the innocent? The Lord will protect you from 
all evil; 
He will keep your soul (Psalm 121). These kids were vulnerable. Does God not promise to guard the defenseless? The Lord is the keeper of little ones: I was humbled, and he delivered me (Psalm 116:6). These kids deserved long lives. Does God not promise to safeguard humanity? I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings (Psalms 61:4).

Judaism gave rise to the defiant man of faith, the man who, like Jacob, spars with angels and defeats them. The Jew is a child of Abraham who went so far as to accuse God of injustice when the Almighty sought to the destruction of both the righteous and the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah at the same time. The Jew is the disciple of Moses, who thundered to God that he wished his name to be taken out of God’s holy Torah if the Creator would proceed with His stated intention of wiping out the Jewish nation after the sin of the Golden Calf. The Jew is like King David, who declares in the Psalms, I shall not die for I shall live. The Jew has achieved immortality through an impudent insubordination in the face of historical inevitability, daring to defy fate and forge an audacious destiny.

Our role in life should not be to offer empty platitudes in the face of suffering, about how the murdered children are in heaven. Rather, we have a right to demand from God that He abide by the same values and rules that He commanded us to uphold. Through Moses, He commanded us to always choose life. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Duet. 30:19). Must God not also choose life? Are we human beings just so much cosmic chaff that when our children are slaughtered? Are we meant just to bow our heads in silent submission?

No. The role of religion is not to make us compliant. Rather, faith galvanizes us to make the world a better place. That means fighting evil and protecting life. It means building hospitals and developing medicines. And it also means demanding of God that He show Himself in history and help us to make the world a safer place.

We can’t stop every monster-psycho like Adam Lanza. But He can. And spare me the arguments that say if God were to stop evil we would not have any freedom of choice. When Adam Lanza grabbed his mother’s guns and started over to the Sandy Hook school, he could easily have been hit by a bus and none would have been the wiser. It would not have compromised anyone’s freedom of choice.

Challenging God in the face of suffering is not blasphemous. Rather, it is deeply religious and the ultimate sign of faith. It means we believe that God controls the world, controls human fate, controls the world’s destiny, and has it in His unlimited power to make the world a happier place.

President Obama is an eloquent speaker. But rather than let God off the hook, in the face of tragedy, I would rather hear him say, “Lord, we Americans are a righteous people. We spend endless blood and treasure around the world to untie the hands of the oppressed, to protect the rights of women, and to safeguard children from terrorists. We give huge amounts of charity and Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques. We have Your holy name printed even on our money, and we have a national day of Thanksgiving to show our gratitude for Your bounty. We deserve better than to see twenty tiny, precious souls slaughtered so brutally. In the name of all that is righteous, and as the Chief Magistrate of this great nation, I ask You, I implore You, I demand of You, to protect our children, Your children, from harm, so that all the peoples of the world will see Your great hand in history and how the innocent are allowed to flourish, prosper, and grow old with children of their own.”

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About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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72 Responses to “Where Was God When Sandy Hook’s Children Died?”

  1. Joelle Perez Chilcott says:

    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: instead of demanding that G-d protect you because of how righteous you are, perhaps you need to be asking yourself: "WHY IS G-D ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN"… and take a closer look at yourselves…

  2. Rc Fowler says:

    True–except Boteach is not righteous–he is an ignorant fool!

  3. Firstly, your comment about "We are a righteous people" is grossly inaccurate. Why did God lift his hedge of protectiion from his chosen people? Because of their evil deeds and refusal to repent. America is EVIL. Don't call evil good and good evil. Condoning homosexuals, abortion, fraud, a muslim president and czars, and kicking God & Christ out of schools, politics, and even churches is why sin prevails.

  4. Rc Fowler says:

    America for the most including its illegitimate government–have turned away from God–and evil like this are the result–and will continue and increase!

    What else is to be expected from a people who allow the genocidal mass murder of their unborn and even those who have been born? What else is to be expected from a people who will allow and promote homosexuality–even to small children?

  5. noahide says:

    rabbi, please give us a break. you are harming would be noahides more than you know. for a start it would be nice if we did not hear from yu so often.

  6. Glatt some questions says:

    We deserve better than to see twenty tiny, precious souls slaughtered so brutally. In the name of all that is righteous, and as the Chief Magistrate of this great nation, I ask You, I implore You, I demand of You, to protect our children, Your children, from harm, so that all the peoples of the world will see Your great hand in history and how the innocent are allowed to flourish, prosper, and grow old with children of their own.”
    —————————
    Rabbi Boteach seems to suggest that what he preferred President Obama and all others to say (above) and what Obama actually said (“God has called them all home… May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place.”) somehow contradict each other, but I don’t see it. One can demand that God protect our children, but can still feel that if our children have perished in an untimely way they have gone to their ultimate destination (albeit too soon).

  7. Gil Gilman says:

    First Shmuley gets up on his bony nag, and prances about looking all regal. Then the cousins of Brom Bones mount up on their high horses, seeking to run him down, because he dares to love the same darling bride on whome they claim to have the best hold.

    As long as we are quoting, how about this one from Psalm 14 where King David says that no one is or does good, the good being defined as one who seeks HaShem in his soul of souls, and ends with:

    “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores His captive people,
    Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.

    When King David wrote this there was no captivity current so it must have been prescient. Psalm 53, also by King David ends with the same sentiment, and furthermore defines what a fool is, one that declares in his heart there is no God. What it boils down to is this, do you believe in the resurrection of the dead or not? Job, a gentile, says something like, “even without my flesh I will see G-d.”

    Noah Posner’s family is grieving as do all who lose a cherished member of the family. It is true that I should challenge G-d if my heart demands it, or I am not being honest with myself or with HaShem. On the other hand, to dismiss the sublime joy of being reunited with the One who made me is a travesty of epic proportions. Will I miss my cherished loved ones when this event occurs? Not at all! They will miss me, no doubt, because they are yet in the world of shadows, being separated from the Holy One.

    When I pass, I have stated that I wish to be buried with the two relatives who made me feel loved as a child, and whom I still miss to this day. Yet these are earthly statements from the Here and not related to the experience of There.

    If we don’t lash out at G-d with our whys when called upon to do so, we are to be pitied. If, on the other hand we diminish the absolute value of being in the presence of the Holy, then we are also to be pitied. I agree with Shmuley that President Obama’s statements are without substance. I further contend that they are insincere and posturing, yet if he had said nothing at all, that would be bad politics. The President is merely a head of state, and that is what heads of state do. We should not be looking to them as the do all for us. Neither should we be looking for HaShem to do all for us. He is not some monolithic edifice, some super-computer where all you must to is plug in the correct values for the algorithm, and voila. He sometimes works through human agency, sometimes by direct intervention, sometimes nothing apparent takes place and we challenge Him to a duel of words, for what other duel would we could we offer?

  8. Gil Gilman says:

    First Shmuley gets up on his bony nag, and prances about looking all regal. Then the cousins of Brom Bones mount up on their high horses, seeking to run him down, because he dares to love the same darling bride on whom they claim to have the best hold.

    As long as we are quoting, how about this one from Psalm 14 where King David says that no one is or does good, the good being defined as one who seeks HaShem in his soul of souls, and ends with:

    "Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores His captive people,
    Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.

    When King David wrote this there was no captivity current so it must have been prescient. Psalm 53, also by King David ends with the same sentiment, and furthermore defines what a fool is, one that declares in his heart there is no God. What it boils down to is this, do you believe in the resurrection of the dead or not? Job, a gentile, says something like, "even without my flesh I will see G-d."

    Noah Posner's family is grieving as do all who lose a cherished member of the family. It is true that I should challenge G-d if my heart demands it, or I am not being honest with myself or with HaShem. On the other hand, to dismiss the sublime joy of being reunited with the One who made me is a travesty of epic proportions. Will I miss my cherished loved ones when this event occurs? Not at all! They will miss me, no doubt, because they are yet in the world of shadows, being separated from the Holy One.

    When I pass, I have stated that I wish to be buried with the two relatives who made me feel loved as a child, and whom I still miss to this day. Yet these are earthly statements from the Here and not related to the experience of There.

    If we don't lash out at G-d with our why's when called upon to do so, we are to be pitied. If, on the other hand we diminish the absolute value of being in the presence of the Holy, then we are also to be pitied. I agree with Shmuley that President Obama's statements are without substance. I further contend that they are insincere and posturing, yet if he had said nothing at all, that would be bad politics. The President is merely a head of state, and that is what heads of state do. We should not be looking to them as the do all for us. Neither should we be looking for HaShem to do all for us. He is not some monolithic edifice, some super-computer where all you must do is plug in the correct values for the algorithm, and voila. Nor is He tethered to our wishes. He sometimes works through human agency, sometimes by direct intervention, sometimes nothing apparent takes place and we challenge Him to a duel of words, for what other duel could we offer?

  9. Julian Kaye says:

    which begs the question, where was god during the holocaust?

  10. Shalom, with all due respect Rabbi Boteach America is far from righteous and I agree that "We are a righteous people" is grossly inaccurate.

    Additionally, I think your understanding of challenging God in times of such a terrible tragedy is also grossly inaccurate.

    I humbly offer in my opinion a better understanding of such tragic events:
    Parshat Shemini in this Torah portion (Lev. 10:3) we are told that when Aaron witnessed the violent death of his two grown sons “Vayidom Aharon – Aaron was silent.”How deeply he must have been hurt and grieved by the loss of his beloved sons! But nonetheless he remained totally silent. He showed no reaction whatsoever. How can this be?
    He bowed to the will of the Creator with perfect acceptance, and his harmony remained undisturbed. “And Aaron was silent.”.
    (Rabbi Naftali Reich).

  11. God has a Holy Spirit for the sake of His Goodness, and God is also all other things , both creative and destructive , for the sake of authority in Nature. To have the protection of God's Holy Spirit people must believe in Jesus, and ask for Wisdom to be on guard and protect the children at home, at school and at play. The School needs at the Principal's level armed security , at least one police officer on duty at the school, when in session. That is not too much to ask of people who ask God for help in protecting the lives of their children. It is not too much to ask of God, that one security officer be there. People have to pay , not just ask God for help.

  12. there is nothing wrong with what President Obama said and yes we should be demanding that g-d protect us but I agree with Joelle that we all need to take a look at ourselves and and see if we deserve to be protected.

  13. Shema Israel Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad! Yes the greatest teaching is to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart. This is the greatest mitzvot. He alone is God and He alone is Holy. It was with trembling that Abraham presented his petition to God at the oaks of Mamre. Not with arrogance. Abraham's request was met with an affirmation. Just as Abraham had the hutzpa to 'remind' the All Knowing God of His own holy and just character so God confirmed that He would not destroy the righteous of S'dom an G'morah. We can, in our pain and our confusion, petition God, and plead with Him, question Him in our hunger to understand. But we must never lose sight of Who He is and who we are. To blame God as if we are equal or above Him, to think that we, with our constant desire to get Him to endorse anything and everything in accordance with our rules, have any right to forget that it was this very thinking that brought all the suffering upon Creation and ourselves in the first place, is the ultimate folly.
    God gave us His word, the Tanakh so that it would not be added to or taken away from. He has answered every question we could ever ask if only we would open our hearts in repentence before we opening our mouths in defiance.

  14. Yori Yanover says:

    But on the same occasion, Aaron did not eat the sacrificial meat, telling Moses he couldn't. Moses agreed with him. Aaron was telling God that when He treats us harshly, we have the right to protest.

  15. Yori Yanover says:

    What would be Jesus's favorite gun?

  16. Yori Yanover says:

    Do you ask yourself each day if your children deserve to be protected? If they misbehave, do you send them to play in traffic?

  17. Yori Yanover says:

    Why is it defiance to suggest that those children did not deserve to be killed?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Rabbi Shmuley, stick to you're favorite topic "kosher sex"leave this subject to those who know best.

  19. Edward Lobel says:

    if you really believe what you say, you should keep those thoughts to yourself as now everyone knows how ignorant and hateful you are!

  20. Edward Lobel says:

    I knew as soon as I saw the author's name on the by line that there would be some bad things said about President Obama. This is a basic problem that this rabbi has. Before he can start getting into the "meat" of his thoughts, he must put blame on President Obama. He has a very bad tendency to say things like "it is not the poresident's fault, or I am not blaming the president…" but by that time he has already laid fault at his feet!

    President Obama is a Christian and what he spoke about is how ALL Christians react to a loved ones dying! That person "was called home".

    While Shmuely may go on to try and explain why you should not blame g-d about this horrible tragidy, his hatred for all things Obama should not have made the article at all.

  21. He was probably in the same place as He was during the Holocaust!-Right there with them!
    'KG'77

  22. Samuel Abbo says:

    HASHEM YOU BROUGHT ME TO LIFE, AND ONLY YOU CAN CALL ME BACL. BLESSED BE YOUR ETERNITY. AMEN

  23. God has a master plan..us humans might not understand or agree with…but god in these tough times is still merciful and loves all his children

  24. To ask God for an answer to the question 'God why did these children die?', which at least acknowledges that He is God and can reveal the answer to us. Is very different to making a rhetorical statement at Him. To assume that we have a question that God can't answer is to say that we are greater than God. There is no question God does not know the answer to but the very fact that we need to ask Him such questions shows that there is an infinite number of things we just do not have answers for.This is true all the time, not just in times of grief and loss. The fault is in us. If we could only be humble enough to know that it is our inability to comprehend His answers, our refusal to see beyond our own inability to see and the endless lists of bitter reasons why we close the door of our hearts to our Creator, then maybe the Tshuva He has begged us to do, would reveal the answers we all so desperately need.

  25. Allan Schneider says:

    There is no god. It is a complete fake and a scam. It provides rabbis like Boteach with power and money. Otherwise he would be driving a cab.

  26. Melissa From-Chicago says:

    Why are you posting about about JC on a Jewish post Carmine? We don't believe in your false messiah.

  27. William Haworth says:

    וַיֹּאמֶר צֵא וְעָמַדְתָּ בָהָר לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה עֹבֵר וְרוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה וְחָזָק מְפָרֵק הָרִים וּמְשַׁבֵּר סְלָעִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה לֹא בָרוּחַ יְהוָה וְאַחַר הָרוּחַ רַעַשׁ לֹא בָרַעַשׁ יְהוָה. וְאַחַר הָרַעַשׁ אֵשׁ לֹא בָאֵשׁ יְהוָה וְאַחַר הָאֵשׁ קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה. וַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ אֵלִיָּהוּ וַיָּלֶט פָּנָיו בְּאַדַּרְתּוֹ וַיֵּצֵא וַיַּעֲמֹד פֶּתַח הַמְּעָרָה וְהִנֵּה אֵלָיו קוֹל וַיֹּאמֶר מַה-לְּךָ פֹה אֵלִיָּהוּ.

  28. Obama is not a Christian. If he was, then his Muslim brothers would have had him "dealt with "long ago. Anyone who converts from Islam to Christianity, receives the death penalty.

  29. It is only a fool who says there is no God. Remember this when you come before the judgement seat and bow to your Creator. Each of us has to, and those who have been redeemed will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

  30. I do not know what teachings you follow, if any,but, Jesus is the Messiah, prophecies are being fulfilled each and every moment of the day, and the day of Christ's return is closer than you think. When you have to bow before Him on Judgement day, then you will regret saying that he is false.

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