In these troubled times, people are asking very difficult questions about God and their faith:
- If I suffer, does that mean I deserve it?
- Why do innocent people, especially children, die tragically?
- How can God be so cruel?
- Does God ever intervene during times of trouble?
- Who really runs the world-God or man?
- Do my prayers do any good?
- Why does God allow sickness, torture and evil to exist?
Benjamin Blech admits, the answers are not simple. There is no one-size-fits-all explanation. Indeed, not only are there many answers, but in different situations several explanations may apply. Blech wrote this book as an intellectual analysis of Jewish wisdom on the subject of suffering. His theories are the fruit of thousands of years of debate, examination and struggle. Jewish wisdom teaches that there are rich and inspiring answers to the ultimate question: If God is good, why is the world so bad?
Take part in the most important spiritual journey of all-the quest for serenity in the face of adversity-and discover that in the accumulated wisdom of the ages lies a time-tested solution for turning despair into hope and sorrow into faith.
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About the Author
Benjamin Blech is an internationally recognized educator, religious leader, and lecturer. He is the author of seven highly acclaimed best-sellers, including three in the popular Idiot's Guide series. One of his books, Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed, was chosen by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations as the single best book on Judaism today. In a national survey by Jewsweek, Benjamin Blech ranked sixteen in a listing of the fifty most influential Jews in America. A recipient of the American Educator of the Year Award, he is an associate professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University since 1966. A tenth-generation rabbi, he has formed thousands of student-teacher relationships through his warm and caring style. He lectures around the world in places as far away as Australia, South Africa, Singapore and Israel. He has appeared on national television, including Oprah, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times and Newsday.
Read an Excerpt
"There was a man in the land of Uz and his name was Job. . . ."
Thus begins one of the most famous of Biblical stories, the tale of a good and pious man, who, even when beset by calamity and tragedy, never falters in his allegiance to God.
As the narrative opens, Satan doubts Job's faith, telling God that Job's devotion is only due to his blessings. Job is healthy, wealthy and happy, but if his fortunes were to be reversed, Satan slyly suggests, his faith would not stand up to the trial. In response, God permits Satan to test Job, and he does so most cruelly. Job becomes penniless. His children die. He is afflicted with a terribly painful disease. And yet he refuses to curse God. Instead, he declares,
"The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Friends admonish Job to repent for his sins, insisting that his tragedies must be divine punishment for wrongs he committed. Why else, they declare, could he be suffering this way? "Think now, what innocent man ever perished?"
they ask him. "Where have the upright been destroyed?" But Job knows he has done no wrong and refuses to repent. He pleads with God to explain why this evil has befallen him.
In the end, God rewards Job for his steadfastness by restoring his wealth in double measure, his family and his health. Job's friends are chastised for adding to Job's grief, and the story ends happily with Job living in contentment to the age of 140.
But Job never gets an answer. God's sole explanation for the suffering Job had to endure is a string of questions: "Where were you when I laid the
Earth's foundations? . . . Can you send up an order to the clouds for an abundance of water to cover you? ... Can you hunt prey for the lion and satisfy the appetite of the king of beasts? . . . Is it by your wisdom that the hawk grows pinions,
spreads his wings to the south?"4 In other words, God seems to be saying to Job, "I run this vast and complicated world, and you cannot possibly grasp the multitude of reasons why I do what I do."
And yet we continue to try. And it is Job's name that inevitably comes up when we struggle to understand why God allows evil in the world, when we ask the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Surprisingly enough, the story may very well be fiction. Job never existed,
according to many of the sages of the Talmud.5 So why is he in the Bible?
Although Job is perhaps the only imaginary hero of Biblical personalities,
he is at the same time the most universal of all of them. He is the father who has inexplicably lost his job and has no means of supporting his family. He is the mother who has just been told her child has terminal cancer. He is the
Holocaust survivor who still wakes up screaming in the middle of the night.
He is me, and he is you.
That's why the book of Job is not really the story of a tragic figure of old.
The book of Job is about twenty-first-century men and women who try to make sense out of the unfair circumstances of their lives even as they struggle to hold onto their beliefs. Most of all, the book of Job is about a dilemma which,
sooner or later, every one of us must resolve in our lives. This dilemma is the apparent contradiction between three basic assumptions:
- God is just. He judges all of us with impartial fairness. He rewards the good, and He punishes the wicked.
- God is all-powerful. He can do anything. Nothing happens in the world without
His willing it. Indeed, everything that happens is part of His plan.
- Job is a good man.
Now as long as everything is going well with Job—he is healthy and wealthy—we can believe all three of these statements at the same time with no difficulty.
But when Job's suffering begins, when he loses his possessions, his family and his health, we have a problem. We can no longer make sense of all three propositions simultaneously. We can now affirm any two only by denying the third.
If God is both just and all-powerful, then it must be that the third statement is wrong—Job is not a good man; he is a sinner, and he deserves what is happening to him. But if Job is good and God causes his suffering nonetheless,
then God cannot be just. Or if Job is good and God is not responsible for his suffering, then God cannot be all-powerful.
For all three to be true appears to be impossible. So which one is wrong?
Which one of these three assumptions are we going to sacrifice on the altar of reality? That is the question.
2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from If God Is Good,
Why Is The World So Bad? by Bejamin Blech. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health
Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked up this book at a local bookstore because it seemed interesting. However the further I got into the book the more I was disappointed. The author draws from the writings of the Talmud and the tradition of midrash and no doubt many intelligent men have thought about these issues, but in the end it all seems like a complicated exercise in rationalization to be able to maintain belief in God . Too often the message of the book is that we can't understand God's ways and to just have faith and it will all work out in the end. I never cease to shake my head at religious authors who claim one can really never understand the mind of God and then go on to write large volumes about how God thinks and acts. It was a wise person who said religion has very little to do with God.
In this book Benjamin Blech tries to give a satisfactory set of answers to the fundamental question every believer in a just and loving G-d must address, the question of why there is so much suffering and evil in the world. I would like to be able to say that the answers provided give me a greater sense of assurance and faith. I am only speaking for myself, and perhaps other readers who also have thought much about this question will feel differently- but I did not find the answers given here ( and especially the examples provided) very convincing. As one who believes in a Caring G-d , as one who prays for a G-d who will bring justice and redemption to all those who have suffered unjustly in this world I found little real help here. Again I may very well be wrong. And I certainly went into the reading with the same attitude I came out of it with i.e. no one no human being can hope to answer this question- and part of the paradox and pain of human existence for those like myself who need and believe in G-d is having to live with the contradictory evidence provided by a world in which many human beings suffer all out of proportion to any wrong or evil they have done.