Ask The Rabbi

July 6, 2002 / 26 Tammuz, 5762

Life and Death

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Coping with Life & Death

From: David

Dear Rabbi,

I was wondering about something that always bothers me. Unfortunately, people die, sometimes tragically, sometimes from natural causes.

Relatives and friends will often say it's for the good, it's what G-d wants, it's meant to be, etc. I can see that side. Then on the other hand, we have these murders in Israel on what seems like a daily basis, and bombings and brutal massacres of our people in Israel. When this happens I don't hear anyone saying, it's for the good, it's meant to be, etc. We have outrage, rallies, prayers.

The point of this question is not to compare what happens in Israel to other deaths, the point is that where do we as Jews hold? Do we say that death is meant to be and it's part of the big picture that we can't understand? Or do we mourn and cry and hold rallies? It appears that we do both and they seem to contradict one another. If it's all meant to be then why are we sad?

I sit at my computer and read the news in Israel. I am saddened, I say a little tehillim, but then I have to go to work, or to lunch, or to a baseball game. Life goes on for me while people in other places are losing their limbs, suffering and dying. Do I enjoy life because “ahh, it's meant to be” or should I walk around mourning, quit my job and say tehiilim all day, etc. How are we supposed to react to tragic events? And even when I daven hard and with emotion, I go home and hear of another bombing! But hey, life goes on, what can I do, I have to go play baseball! Thank you.

Dear David,

I was very touched by your sincere concern for the suffering of Jews in Israel and your search for an understanding of what you should do about it.

The Torah, as a “Torah of Life”, teaches us that we must do everything in our power to protect ourselves from danger because life is a sacred opportunity granted us by our Creator. At the same time we are expected to accept the outcome of all our efforts as being divinely ordained for our ultimate benefit. Our failure to take natural steps for our protection can serve as an indictment of our neglect to preserve the precious gift of life which can indeed invite unwelcome developments.

We mourn and cry for the deaths of terror victims in the same way that we mourn the death of relatives and friends - not because we have any doubt that their passing was for their ultimate benefit and ours but because we are saddened by the vacuum which has been created in our lives and the world. We hold rallies because we take the natural step of trying to rally world opinion for our military and diplomatic moves of self-defense. And, finally, we pray to Heaven because we realize that whatever is happening is a reminder that we must improve ourselves.

There is no need to quit your job in order to pray all day long. But there is a need for you, for me and for all Jews everywhere to make some serious resolutions for coming closer to G-d, the only One who can really bring peace and security to our people and the world.

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