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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.

9 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    Rabbi Dr. Walter S. Wurzberger, a prominent disciple of the Rav, writes, “The Rav employs this distinction in discussing the problem of evil. He maintains that it is senseless to raise the metaphysical question of why there is evil in the world. The human mind is simply not equipped to tackle this problem. To engage in theodicy is an exercise in futility. Instead of looking for an explanation of our fate—for example, why a particular evil has struck us—we should ask ourselves how we can respond to evil in a manner that will enable us to emerge from this experience as better moral and spiritual beings.”

    May we hear glad tidings

    • Gil Student says:

      I’ve always found this approach puzzling, as it contradicts the approach of the sages throughout the generations. I think of it as a hora’as sha’ah following the Holocaust, a form of “al tenachameihu be-sha’ah she-meiso mutal lefanav”.

      • joel rich says:

        To each his own, I’ll leave it at kach mkublani mbeit avi abba -this is the response that helps me keep moving forward in the face of evil. When I hear the usual (and perhaps correct) explanations, I think of the R’ Chaim story when one of the talmidim remarked that the suffering would be worthwhile if it hastened mashiach’s coming. R’ Chaim reportedly cut him off with: if Hkb”h wants to bring moshiach, he could do it without the suffering.

        By the way there is a front page NYTIMES story mentioning Alisa Flatow – who would have been 40 this year. When I see her father or walk by Alisa Drive in West Orange, I often wonder how many people remember her and what have they done with the time HKB”H gave them.

      • micha says:

        It’s not “only” R/Dr Wurzberger, it’s also in Qol Dodi Dofeiq. I think RYBS would perforce understand Chazal as taking lessons from tragedy rather than trying to identify the actual causes.

        Also, and this is a bit further from what RYBS has in writing, it is quite posssible that the whole point is not in any one tanna’s or amora’s answer to why there was a churban rishon, or sheini, or Nadav vaAvihu, or… but in the fact that in each case, there were numerous answers. The diversity shows a community in struggle with the question, not resolution and an answer.

        • Gil Student says:

          I think RYBS would perforce understand Chazal as taking lessons from tragedy rather than trying to identify the actual causes

          I’m not sure what that means. Are you suggesting that when Chazal said that the Temple was destroyed because people did not recite blessings on the Torah, they really only meant that we should be more careful to recite those blessings (or however you want to explain that passage)? That seems to me like a very forced reading.
          Your point about multiple explanations resonates with me. To state it differently, we can speculate but we cannot be certain.

          • micha says:

            Yes, I also find the first answer more dachuq, but I believe that’s RYBS’s position. Rabbi Jack Love suggested the second answer, and it resonates with me as well. I was trying to phrase it more in the sense of RYBS’s point about the need to struggle with tragedy, tragedy as an unfinishable dialectic.

  2. Joseph Kaplan says:

    If we can only speculate since we can’t be certain (and I agree we can’t be certain) what’s the purpose of speculating? It not only seems like a wasted effort but can cause damage (I didn’t make a bracha on the Torah so I’m responsible for the destruction of the Temple– how can I live with myself?). The Rav’s position is so much more sensible and worthwhile, both theologically and psychologically.

  3. Joseph Kaplan says:

    I read your 2005 and remain unconvinced. The fact that rabbis did this in the past does not make it sensible or right in our time. If I study long and hard enough there’s a chance I can understand nuclear physics. Bu no matter hiw great rabbis are and no matter how long they think about it at the end of the day it’s no more than speculation without any support. It’s all made up; God did this because of x y or z. How do they know other than making it up. I agree; if there see someway to know its a worthwhile task. But since there’s no way, the Rav’s approach is the only one that makes sense.


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