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Where was God During the VT Shooting?

The terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech raises a number of questions, but the ultimate question is: where was God when this happened? This is not a new question. We are forced to ask ourselves it in the face of every tragedy.

I am reminded of a response given by a Holocaust a survivor who replied to the question in a typical Jewish way: with another question. He wrote: ask not where God was in the Holocaust, ask where was Humanity?

In Judaism we believe God gave us the world to care and develop. God gave us good rules to follow. God vested us with the responsibility to care for those around us. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We are God’s hands in the world.

Let us remember that there would have been no Holocaust if there had been 6,000 Oscar Schindlers, each willing to protect 1,000 Jews. There would have been no Holocaust if the nations of the world had accepted Jewish refugees.


Dr. Liviu Librescu, the professor who sacrificed his life for his students at Virginia Tech, understood this. He lost his entire family during the Holocaust. Persecuted in his native Romania for not following the party line, he was freed to go to Israel in l978. He came to Virginia Tech on sabbatical in 1986. It is ironic that he stayed because he loved the peaceful atmosphere. On Monday, when the gunman came shooting to his classroom, Dr. Lebrescu blocked the door with his body as he yelled for his students to jump out the classroom window to escape. All his students got out. He stayed and kept the door closed while the killer riddled his body with bullets through the door. He gave up his life on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, so his students could escape.


There were others who were also God’s hands that day: Trey Perkins helped hold the door shut in his German class while staunching the wounds of a classmate with his sweatshirt. Kevin Sterne, a senior and former Eagle Scout, grabbed an electric cord and fashioned a tourniquet to stop a student’s bleeding from a severed artery. I am sure we will be hearing the stories of other such heroes over the next days and weeks. They were God’s hands. Like the righteous gentiles who endangered themselves and their families to save strangers during the Holocaust, these individuals represent goodness in the midst of evil.

Where was God at Virginia Tech? In the hearts and minds of these individuals. In the ability of the students and faculty to return to campus this week and pick up their lives and go on as caring, feeling, and loving individuals.


That is where God is in the midst of tragedy: in motivating good people to help others and in giving us the strength to go on even in the midst of tragedy.

–Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman

Read the Full Debate: God & the Virginia Tech Shooting

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posted April 26, 2007 at 7:28 pm

Hello With all due respect, your explanation implies contradictions. When we pray, isn’t there an assumption of an active god who could write or re-write an already written script of our human events? When a prayer gets “answered”, dont’ we thank god for “answering” our prayer? If these scenarios are valid, how can god be so powerful, on one hand to readily intervene in our “small” events, and so powerless to intervene in tragic events?

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posted April 26, 2007 at 7:52 pm

I share Rabbi Grossman’s thoughts. Humans are capable of great good and of great evil. It is up to us to choose and if God interfered to frequently in our choices, then we are without free will. God COULD interfere in anything and everything, but he does not. Otherwise, our lives would be meaningless, for we would be puppets. When we pray and our prayers are answered, more often than not our problems were solved not by miracles, but by some action we found the strength to take. God gives us the strength to solve our own problems. Dr. Lebrescu survived the Holocaust and ended up giving his life to save his students from yet another madman. Through the years he contributed so much to this world. He survived for a reason and his life WAS a miracle…of his own making and perhaps, with God’s help.

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posted April 27, 2007 at 11:42 am

Thank You, Rabbi Grossman, for writting such a beautiful article. I am not Jewish by religion, but I did lose family that was Jewish during the Holocaust. I, too, believe that God gives us strength to get through the difficult times. I also believe that God is always with us. I do not believe that Prayers are answered like *wishes* as some people do. I have seen what I consider Miracles take place, but those Miracles also had to include the blessings and love of people right here on earth or they never would have happened. I remember reading the book by Rabbi Kirsner, “When Bad Things Happen To Good People”. The most important message I recieved from his book was that God doesn’t make bad things happen to us, but when they do God gives us the strength to get through them. To this very day, I hold on to that message and this morning, you just embeded into my heart even more. With Love, Starshine_217

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posted May 1, 2007 at 6:35 am

I absolutely agree with Geno’s post and I beleive the script had been set long ago for when prayers were taken out of schools. Prayers provide protection and if there are no prayers, where is that protection? This was the works and plan of Satan and not God. My prayers go out to all the families of those who were lost and I pray that soul’s of those who died will rest in peace.

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posted May 6, 2007 at 6:33 pm

If European Jews had easy access to guns in the 1930’s and 40’s, and were willing to obtain and use them, maybe Hitler would not have been able to slaughter 6 million of them. Luckily there is easy access to guns in Israel where Jews carry them and are willing to defend themselves with them. Otherwise, there might be no Israel. I’m a law-abiding U.S. citizen. I don’t want the government restricting my ability to defend myself against lawbreakers by restricing my ability to obtain a gun.

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