How and Why (Non-fiction)


After the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, I saw this blog post by Rabbi Adam Shalom, Rabbi for Kol Hadash and the Dean of North America for the International Institue for Secular Humanistic Judaism from 2013:

This time, however, it’s just the wrong question. When tragedy happens, there is no why, no cosmic reason behind personal pain. Tragedy happens because life is not a script with a happy ending. Gravity and plate tectonics do not care about one’s moral worth. Humanity should care, and should strive to counteract the indifference of the universe. But that will still not answer the “why.”

To respond to the immediate need, however, we need a more direct approach. We can honestly respond to another’s grief with, “We’ll probably never know” (which is true), or even more powerfully, “We can be supportive by our presence.”

When I decided that I no longer believed in a God, I stopped looking at the events around the world as part of God’s game.  Terrible things happen not because we angered a god, but because the universe is not sentient.  So I agree with Rabbi Shalom’s more significant point that there is no ultimiate reason why these specific people were murdered.

That said, we are not entirely at the mercy of an uncaring universe.  We can stand up to anti-Semitism and bigotry in general.  We can work to vote out politicians who pander to hate groups.  We can work to strengthen gun laws.  Our actions may not eliminate mass murders, but we can try to limit their frequency.