Where is God in Times of Tragedy?
'We Will Do and We Will Understand'
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
Where is God when tragedy strikes? In our imperfect and deeply flawed world, we cannot know with absolute certainty. But we Jews are people of faith. When we accepted the covenant with God, we said: “naaseh v’nishma” – “we will do and we will understand.” This means, according to the rabbinic tradition, that, “we will do and THEN we will understand.” In other words, we confront tragedy – and all of life – by doing. Our faith is the faith made real in the lives and deeds that heal at least some of the wounds of the afflicted. Because we choose to understand God not as a noun but as a verb: healing the sick, clothing the naked, housing the homeless. These, we know, are the attributes of God, and we testify to God’s existence by emulating God’s behavior through the verbs of our own conduct.
Where is God? God is with the suffering and the dying; with those who show compassion and offer aid; with those who comfort the fallen.
We Jews are not blind to the cruelty of fortune or to the randomness of circumstance. But we confront such things with a coldly realistic eye, and we choose faith over denial and despair. And always, always, we proclaim our devotion to God and our profound conviction that no tragedy is the last word.