Thank you for joining us for the first lesson of “Beyond Never Again: How the Holocaust Speaks to Us Today.” We began our discussion on the topic of suffering, contextualizing the Holocaust. Human beings in the twenty-first century are not the first to notice that it is often the righteous who suffer and the wicked who prosper. Jews have been questioning this fact for more than 3,000 years.
The great Jewish leaders – Moses and Job – too asked this question, and questioning suffering should not be condemned as a sign of lack of faith. Furthermore, it is ultimately the believer in G-d who questions suffering. To the non-believer, the world is a jungle, void of accountability and responsibility.
We considered the three axioms that we accept about the nature of G-d: that He is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent. From a philosophical perspective, the problem of suffering only emerges when we accept these three principles as absolute. It is only when we accept these three principles that we can be troubled by the contradiction between what we expect the world to look like and the real suffering that exists in our world.
The Jewish response to suffering divides the issues into two parts: the suffering of others must not be viewed the same way as one might view his or her own experiences. While our faith may allow us to accept our own suffering without complaint, we can never be complacent about the suffering of others.
Thus, we must resist the tendency to embrace easy answers. It is necessary that we remain troubled by the question of suffering, for if we could understand and accept it, we would be less sensitive to our responsibility to do everything in our power to end it.
The ultimate answer to the question concerning the suffering around us is that no answer is acceptable. We do not seek to rationalize the pain of others, but to alleviate it.
Judaism does not glorify suffering. It is a temporary aberration with which we should never make peace. Jewish tradition firmly believes in a time when suffering will end, and “G-d will wipe the tears off every face.”
I hope to see you next week at the Chabad Torah Centre for our second lesson, “The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Cries Out: How the Holocaust Impacts Us as Jews.”