Dear Rabanit Cohen,
I come to your lectures on Shabat and truly enjoy them on all levels. I was wondering if you can help me. My ten year-old daughter keeps asking me why Hashem would allow people to suffer? What should I tell her?
Thank you for writing and for attending the shiurim. It is so inspiring to know that there are young children out there who still think on a spiritual level. Explain to your daughter that she is a bright ten-year-old who may understand many things in life, but her baby brother or sister may not. Ask her if her baby brother ever gets a rash? If yes, what happens when a baby has a rash? The mother applies cream to ease the pain of the rash. The poor little baby screams as his soft skin is stung by the ointment – but the mommy keeps going and ignore the screams. As hard as it is for her to cause the baby pain, she does it, because she knows that it is for his good.
Imagine what it would be like if the baby were able to be asked how he feels about the situation. He would probably say, “I’m being hurt by the person who’s supposed to love me the most! My own mother has no mercy. She ignores my cries. Why is this happening?”
What kind of answer could anyone offer? There is no way in the world we could explain to a baby that we are only trying to heal him; that the mother is only doing this in order to prevent pain and make him feel better. A baby simply cannot understand anything beyond the pain he is experiencing.
We are all like this baby. In front of Hashem, the wisest and most learned person is like an infant. We look at the world and we see the suffering and we ask why? No one can really provide a satisfying answer. We cannot understand. All we can do is cry from the pain. Hashem is then moved by our cries as it pains Him to see our pain. He understands us. We do not understand Him.
The gap between our minds and Hashem’s is wider than the gap between a baby’s mind and an adult’s. The baby will one day reach adulthood, and he too will come to understand the ways of his parents. But we will never reach the wisdom of Hashem. We cannot begin to understand His ways. The baby still loves his mom, even though he does not understand her actions. We too need not understand Hashem to love Him. Somehow, all the suffering in the world is a healing, and every painful experience is there to teach and to fix. Why does it have to be this way? Only Hashem knows. We do not. Just as a mother knows what she is doing. So does Hashem.