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Bitterness of Suffering

My friend's child was recently killed in a drive-by shooting (he was an innocent bystander) and she is so angry at God for taking him away. Can you offer a suggestion for how she can process this, because I don't want her to carry this anger around with her forever.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I've seen much suffering, and it seems to me that the key is "attitude." How people deal with it depends on what attitude they have. I have seen people whose attitude was of anger or hurt to such an extent that they never got beyond a particular event - which then became the defining moment of their lives. In a certain sense, life stopped at that particular moment.

On the other hand, I've seen people go through the most horrendous things, but their attitude was a positive one of believing in an ultimate good, of asking how I can learn and grow from this. It is incredible to see the inspiration they gave to others, and how they moved on with their lives. The contrast is vast between these two attitudes. Living with the concept of a good God is so much more uplifting and gives a person the ability to remain joyful and hopeful, and have the strength to go on and fight.

Some people who have suffered tragedies have found a degree of solace by setting up a fund or organization to help others, in memory of the departed one. This enables them to channel some of the great emotion into an area that offers a degree of comfort. See for example, the response of Seth and Shari Mandell to the brutal murder of their son.

People sometimes say they can't believe in God because the world is so full of suffering. But I have found that people who say that are rarely involved in working to alleviate the world's suffering. Those who are involved in healing the world's suffering rarely talk like that. When your life revolves around yourself, the world is a cold, sterile and unfriendly place. When your life revolves around giving to others, you feel how wonderful it is to be alive.

Bart Stern, a Holocaust survivor, told me of the time a man in Auschwitz was robbed of his daily ration of bread. Because of the starved and emaciated state of concentration camp inmates, this was tantamount to a death sentence. Bart gave the man some of his own bread.

He told me, "The many thousands of dollars I've given to tzedaka since then is nothing compared to that one piece of bread."

Bart had nothing to spare, but he nevertheless found the ability to give. Perhaps because of that, he was one of the gentlest and happiest men I ever knew. Auschwitz didn't make him bitter. It made him better.

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