The Zionist Conspiracy

A clandestine undertaking on behalf of Israel, the Jets and the Jews.

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Monday, March 19, 2007
Tragedy, Answers, And Hashgachah Pratis


Three religiously observant Jews - a 31 year old women and a 16 year old girl who battled cancer, and a 52 year old man who for decades suffered from chronic illnesses - recently passed away. These are the tragedies I've been privy to; of course there are many others that we've all heard about. The emotional pain of these losses almost inevitably leads to theological questions by other religious Jews who knew them and who recited tehilim and begged God to cure them.

The concept of hashgachah pratis, that nothing occurs by chance or coincidence, and that everything that happens is part of God's plan, has become mainstream in the Orthodox Jewish world, and is sometimes invoked to answer the most difficult questions.

Alas, hashgachah pratis sometimes causes otherwise reasonably rational people to contrive all kinds of bizarre explanations for the unexplainable. After 9/11, there were silly stories about "miracles" involving people who survived. As for those who didn't - including some who had no reason to be in the World Trade Center or on their doomed flight - well, their gruesome death came about because "their time was up." When tragedy strikes, we hear things like "he's in heaven now" or that collectively we are at a low spiritual level and that God therefore took the victim from this world.

Thirteen years after the bar mitzvah of his son Ariel zt'l, Robert Avrech writes:
Every day, every hour, our son's cruel absence gnaws away at me. I avoid
philosophical discussions of why bad things happen to good people, or why G-d
allows such things to happen.

This is a world of good and evil, joy and tragedy.

There are no easy answers.

When a child dies, there are no answers at all.

I have no patience for the clever explanations—invariably shot-through
with flawed theological and halachic holes—that Rebbeim and amateur theologians
offer. At best they come off as well-intentioned. Often, I'm sorry to say, they
are aggressively self-righteous and pitifully clueless.

I do not object to the concept of hashgachah pratis, but I do object to its misuse by "amateur theologians" purporting to comfort those in mourning. Because as Robert reminds us, sometimes there are no answers at all.