• What is our response when bad things happen to good people?
  • What do the sources say about the role of God in acts of destruction and then the recovery?
  • How do the sources tell us to respond to God in moments of natural tragedy? to each other in moments of natural tragedy?


לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ אֲנִ֖י ה'׃

Do not profit by the blood of your fellow: I am the LORD.


  • What does it mean to “stand idly by”?
  • What are some other ways to phrase “blood of your neighbor?” What else could that mean?

Challenges to Grapple With:

  • Would there ever be a reason when we should turn our head, or not jump in to help someone who is in need?
  • Why do you think so many people go about their lives and ignore when others are suffering?

Source Unknown

A young man once came to Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. ‘Rebbe, I can no longer believe in God. I can’t believe in God because the world is so filled with pain, suffering, ugliness and evil. How could there be a God in such a world?!’ ‘Why do you care?’ asked the Rebbe. ‘What do you mean, why do I care? How could I not care? Innocent people suffer; the world is ruled by cruel people. Why does God allow it?’

Again, the Rebbe inquired, ‘But why do you care?’

The young man screamed out: ‘Someone has to care! Someone has to see the pain of the world and cry out! If not, all the suffering is meaningless. I care because I want a better world, not only for my children but for all children!’

The Rebbe responded, ‘If you care that much, then God exists. You see, God exists in your caring.’”


  • The man tells the Rebbe, “I can no longer believe in God” because of pain caused by others. Have you have had a lapse a faith because of bad things happening to good people?
  • Where does the Rebbe insist that God does exist when people suffer? What does that mean to you?
  • What is the message of the story? Is just caring enough?

Rabbi Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People

The flood that devastates a town is not an ‘act of God,’ even if the insurance companies find it useful to call it that. But the efforts people make to save lives, risking their own lives for a person who might be a total stranger to them, and the determination to rebuild their community after the flood waters have receded, do qualify as acts of God.

Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen, quoted in the Baltimore Sun

“…I do believe that through learning our Jewish tradition, we learn of responsibility for one another. Those who have skills that are useful should be employing those skills in a helpful way.”


  • What does the term “act of God” traditionally mean in society?
  • What does Kushner say are “acts of God?” Why would he flip the connotation for his readers?
  • In Rabbi Sachs-Kohen’s statement, she mentions useful skills people have to help others. In the case of a natural disaster, what skills might be needed in the disaster area?

Challenges to Grapple With:

  • In considering Rabbi Sachs-Kohen’s statement, do you think skills are God-given? Human developed? A combination of both? If the skills area is God-given, does that make a difference if we should be using them to help others?
  • Do you believe that “acts of God” of destruction and “acts of God” in people helping other people can both come from the same God?

על הגשמים ועל בשורות טובות אומר ברוך הטוב והמטיב... מברך על הרעה מעין על הטובה ועל הטובה מעין על הרעה

For rain and other good tidings, one recites the special blessing: Blessed…Who is good and Who does good. Even for bad tidings, one recites a special blessing: Blessed…the true Judge... The mishna articulates a general principle: One recites a blessing for the bad that befalls him just as he does for the good. In other words, one recites the appropriate blessing for the trouble that he is experiencing at present despite the fact that it may conceal some positive element in the future. Similarly, one must recite a blessing for the good that befalls him just as for the bad.


  • What might “Blessed is the true Judge” mean to someone to is facing adversity?
  • Why do you Judaism prescribes for us (through commandment and through example) to affirm God during horrible disaster?

Challenges to Grapple With:

  • Would you be comfortable asserting a faith affirmation amidst total adversity? Why or why not?
(יח) עַ֚ד זֶ֣ה מְדַבֵּ֔ר וְזֶ֖ה בָּ֣א וַיֹּאמַ֑ר בָּנֶ֨יךָ וּבְנוֹתֶ֤יךָ אֹֽכְלִים֙ וְשֹׁתִ֣ים יַ֔יִן בְּבֵ֖ית אֲחִיהֶ֥ם הַבְּכֽוֹר׃ (יט) וְהִנֵּה֩ ר֨וּחַ גְּדוֹלָ֜ה בָּ֣אָה ׀ מֵעֵ֣בֶר הַמִּדְבָּ֗ר וַיִּגַּע֙ בְּאַרְבַּע֙ פִּנּ֣וֹת הַבַּ֔יִת וַיִּפֹּ֥ל עַל־הַנְּעָרִ֖ים וַיָּמ֑וּתוּ וָאִמָּ֨לְטָ֧ה רַק־אֲנִ֛י לְבַדִּ֖י לְהַגִּ֥יד לָֽךְ׃ (כ) וַיָּ֤קָם אִיּוֹב֙ וַיִּקְרַ֣ע אֶת־מְעִל֔וֹ וַיָּ֖גָז אֶת־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וַיִּפֹּ֥ל אַ֖רְצָה וַיִּשְׁתָּֽחוּ׃ (כא) וַיֹּאמֶר֩ עָרֹ֨ם יצתי [יָצָ֜אתִי] מִבֶּ֣טֶן אִמִּ֗י וְעָרֹם֙ אָשׁ֣וּב שָׁ֔מָה ה' נָתַ֔ן וַה' לָקָ֑ח יְהִ֛י שֵׁ֥ם ה' מְבֹרָֽךְ׃
(18) This one was still speaking when another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother (19) when suddenly a mighty wind came from the wilderness. It struck the four corners of the house so that it collapsed upon the young people and they died; I alone have escaped to tell you.” (20) Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, and threw himself on the ground and worshiped. (21) He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”


  • What are all the things bad that happened to Job (and around him) in this excerpt?
  • What is Job’s immediate response to all the tragedy happening around him?

Challenges to Grapple With:

  • In this excerpt from Job, he is the only survivor of a horrible disaster, what might it feel like to have “survivor’s guilt?”


"After the Storm: A Moment of Gratitude," By Alden Solovy

God of heaven and earth,

Source of All,

The storm passed,

The tempest moved on.

Thank you for the kinship of neighbors and friends

As we work together to clean up after the squall.

Thank you for providing safety

To my family and friends throughout the gale.

Thank you for the emergency and rescue workers

Who kept watch and risked their lives for our community.

Bless all who were injured with healing and recovery.

Provide food and clothing, warmth and comfort, to all in need.

Blessed are You, our Rock and our Shelter.