This week, we read Parshat Balak. In this Torah portion, Balak, King of Moab, demands that Balaam curse the Israelite people. Balaam informs him that he can’t do anything that G-d doesn’t want him to do. Indeed, by the end he blesses the Israelite people multiple times. Those who argue that everything happens for a reason might say that Balak’s fear of the people and his desire to curse them led to these moments of blessing, to poetic words so beautiful that they have become a part of our liturgy.
Many people find great comfort in this idea that everything happens for a reason, but I find it deeply troubling. My personal theology does not allow for the concept that G-d causes childhood cancer, tragic deaths, and horrific genocide. I believe that G-d set the world in order and human beings within this natural world have free will to decide how we will respond. G-d isn’t in the tragedy; G-d is in how we respond to the tragedy, how we support one another and help each other through times of fear and loss.
Despite this, there is meaning and reason that can come out of these horrific events. I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that we can FIND REASON in everything that happens. When we bring G-d into our relationships, when we are moved to repair the world and make things better for our children because of the horrible things we’ve seen, then we BRING reason and BRING G-d into tragedies and hopefully in the end the world becomes a better place.
Cantor Sally Neff