Saturday, 26 March 2011 08:48

Comfort my People Japan

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Since the beginning of the tragic events in Japan, I have been receiving a number of letters from people saying that God allowed this tragedy because of a negative statement made by the Japanese government last year about Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria. And it really bothers me. It reminds me of some rabbis in Israel when they claim that there was another terror attack because not enough people kept the Sabbath, or that Israeli soldiers are killed in battle because they didn’t eat kosher food.

These conclusions are based on a false assumption that suffering is always the result of sin. It is the same misunderstanding and false teaching that Job’s friends had when they accused Job. They came to the conclusion that the tragedy that had fallen on him was the result of his sin. These friends had no other way of understanding his punishment (Job 2:7). But they were wrong (Job 42:7).

The Book of Job does not give us the answer of why humans suffer. It only leaves us with the mystery of why bad things happen to good people. Our conclusion must be that there is no answer to the problem of suffering in the world. Life is far more complicated than we can ever imagine and there are many things that we cannot understand. It is even as the sages taught, “It is not in our power to understand either the suffering of the righteous or the prosperity of the wicked” (Pirkei Avot 4:15).

So why do some people think that they can accuse God for bringing this tragedy on Japan because of some anti-Israel statements? Do they think that they can frighten the Japanese into becoming believers by pointing the finger? Did Job come closer to God because ofhis friends’ accusations? In fact, it is these kinds of accusations that only make God into  a narrow-minded and grudgeful vindicator.

What we can learn from Job is how to endure our tragedies. It is the lesson that all those who suffer must learn; how to walk through the tragedies of life without losing our sense of mystery and awe. Job argues with God at every point and questions him with fervor. But in the end he can only confess, “Therefore I spoke but did not understand, wonders beyond me that I did not know… Therefore do I repent…” (42:3-6 ).

Troubles have a way of teaching us more than we know. Suffering broadens our capacity for tenderness and teaches us to resist the temptation towards bitterness and desolation. It is in suffering that we learn that we can find the good, even amongst the devastation. We learn to endure through hardships, not because we understand, but because we are willing to take another step towards compassion.

May all those who think that they have the answers learn to be quiet when tragedy strikes. May they not attempt to place blame on the victims, but rather learn to offer real comfort to the people who are suffering. Real comfort comes from acts and words of kindness and concern, not from false accusations.

I am indebted to Reuven Hammer, former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly for some of the material found in this blog adapted from his article "Job and his Comforters," Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2011
Read 412 times Last modified on Sunday, 27 March 2011 08:50

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  • Comment Link David Lazarus Saturday, 09 April 2011 07:25 posted by David Lazarus

    Gordon, while I certainly agree with the scriptures you quoted from Genesis, I still maintain that we need always to walk in humble awe before the ineffable Lord. I really liked Rev. Meader's statement.

  • Comment Link David Lazarus Saturday, 09 April 2011 07:19 posted by David Lazarus

    "but it must be the greater sin of rejecting the Lord God" That's a really good way to put it Rev. Meader. Thanks for that contribution..

  • Comment Link Rev. Philip Meader Saturday, 09 April 2011 07:18 posted by Rev. Philip Meader

    Dear David, Thank you for your latest. Your comment on Japan was interesting. A few Christians in the Uk seem to think that the Uk is suffering it's present crisis because of it's attitude to Israel. from his UK throne. Of which our attitude to Israel is part .
    Please pray for us on the UK South coast. I retired here a few years ago, (Chichester) and I feel the Lord wants us to champion the Israel and Jewish Messianic cause in our area. We are waiting for God's guidance. There are quite a few of us who feel like this and would value your prayer. We feel something big is going to happen here.

  • Comment Link Anonymous Friday, 08 April 2011 02:41 posted by Anonymous

    I know we must be carefull in judging but I remember over 40 years ago reading a book called Curse or Coincidence? The author named countries who suffered. He then pointed out each was against Israel and reminded the statement of God that those who bless decendants of Abraham would be blessed but those who cursed would be cursed.
    Shalom from Australia, Gordon

  • Comment Link Anonymous Friday, 08 April 2011 01:08 posted by Anonymous

    Great Post Mr. Lazarus. Thank you for scripturally laying it out in a very liberating way.


  • Comment Link Judah Gabriel Himango Monday, 04 April 2011 21:05 posted by Judah Gabriel Himango

    Hey David, thanks again for this post. I've linked to you in the latest" rel="nofollow">Weekly Bracha.

  • Comment Link Judah Gabriel Himango Sunday, 03 April 2011 18:17 posted by Judah Gabriel Himango

    The root is that it's easier to criticize than change self.

  • Comment Link David Lazarus Monday, 28 March 2011 08:32 posted by David Lazarus

    Thanks Judah for the tip. I enjoyed Schiffman's straight forward talk.

    You are right. We tend to judge others more harshly than ourselves. I wish that I didn't, but sometimes find myself falling into that trap. Why do you think we do think we do that?

  • Comment Link Judah Gabriel Himango Sunday, 27 March 2011 20:56 posted by Judah Gabriel Himango

    Hi David,

    Followed you here from your comments on some Messianic blogs.

    This was an insightful post. This "God is punishing the Japanese" stuff needs to be called out as junk. I doubt these folks are consistent in their reasoning when their loved ones succumb to disaster or disease. "God's judgment only happens to other people."

    You might be interested in Dr. Michael Schiffman's post" rel="nofollow">Death and Dying, which touches on this same subject of suffering.

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