When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

God's justice against evil, as seen in the tale of Noah and the flood

My very first funeral as a rabbi was for a lovely kind man who died from a heart attack at the age of 40. He left behind a young bereft widow and an infant daughter who would never know the father she so much resembled. There was a steady drizzle of rain on the gray sad day his loving friends lowered him into the earth. His father glowered silently throughout the ceremony, turning away when Kaddish was recited. After the service, the father came up to me, "Just tell me one thing, rabbi, and then I'll say Kaddish and all those nice prayers you chanted. Why would God do such a thing?" He burst into tears.

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Almost all of us have confronted some equally sad and painful situation in our lives. We ask, "How can a just and all-powerful God allow so many terrible things to befall so many decent good people?"

This common moral question is known by religious philosophers as theodicy, and it has perplexed generations of clergy and believers. This is one of the most difficult challenges to faith: the terrible tragedy of innocent suffering.

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