click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Where Was God in Virginia Tech?
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Where Was God in Virginia Tech?

God's seeming indifference is in fact an expression of His greatest gift to mankind.


In the aftermath of the bloody carnage on campus unparalleled in American history, politicians may turn this into a plebiscite about gun control. Far more pertinent is the problem of God control: How could a benevolent deity have looked on passively and permitted an act that horrified all of us who heard about it?

As a friend of mine put it so powerfully, "If God really runs the world, what happened at Virginia Tech proves He ought to be sued for malpractice!"

Harsh words indeed.

But what is our response to acts so heinous we cannot conceive of any Higher Power permitting them to happen? Why was God in hiding? Where was His hand when a Professor who survived the holocaust demonstrated heroism by choosing death as a means of saving his students? Could not God too find a way to intervene to save at least some of the 32 victims?

As we watched the events of that horrifying Monday unfold I was sure no one could be unmindful of the remarkable synchronicity. The day had special meaning for us in yet another powerful way. This of course was Yom Hashoah, the commemoration of the Holocaust and its six million victims. Then and now, for the genocidal Nazis and for the suicidal student, it is the silence of God in the face of evil that most perplexes us.

Why does God allow unimaginable iniquity?

The theological problem demands an answer. And as hard as it is to accept we must ultimately grasp that God's seeming indifference is in fact an expression of His greatest gift to mankind.

Let me explain.

God created us in His image. What does that mean? He intended us to be like Him – masters of our own fate, deciders of our destiny. God gave us the ability to choose between doing good or evil.

God gave us the free will that could make us greater than angels – or more evil than Satan.

God loves us – and to love somebody means letting that person be himself or herself. The name for that gift which He gave humankind so that we could be ourselves is free will. Without that freedom to choose, we would be no more than puppets acting out a script not of our choosing. God wanted more for us. So God gave us the free will that could make us greater than angels – or more evil than Satan.

Yes, sometimes there are things that happen in the world that profoundly upset the Almighty. But He allows them to happen nevertheless. Indeed He must often restrain Himself. For if God were to always interfere to prevent us from going against His will we would never be capable of really doing good, because we would simply be powerless to commit its alternative!

The very fact that God gave us a commandment, "Thou shalt not murder" shows that we have the choice to obey or to violate it. God warns us not to and reminds us that the consequences of such an act will be very severe, but if a person decides to murder another human being, he may very well succeed. It is not God's will. It is the evil choice of man. But it is God's will that man's choices bear fruit even if death is the outcome.

Consider the first murder in history. It was Cain the wicked who killed Abel the righteous. And where was God? God was the heavenly observer who permitted the free-will act that infuriated Him – and then declared the divine punishment.

And what about poor Abel? Where was justice for the victim?

The problem would be unanswerable if this world was the only place reward and punishment could find expression.

The wrongs of this earth are rectified by a Ruler who has infinity to undo the effects of crimes committed during a lifetime. Martyrs who have suffered on earth merit eternal blessings. According to the teachings of Kabbalah, those who died before their time may be granted another opportunity at life – just as Abel returned once more as none other then Moses. God is powerful enough and certainly wise enough to find ways to set right the unfair consequences of man's misuse of free will.

So God was in Virginia Tech. And it should give us some comfort to know that God also wept with us. His silence was far from indifference; it was absolutely necessary by the very nature of the great gift He shares with us – the freedom to act in accord with our will.

Faith allows us to empathize with the Almighty as He mourns the consequences of His willingness to let us choose our actions. And faith gives us the strength to move on in the knowledge that those for whom we mourn will enjoy God's everlasting kindness and compassion.

April 21, 2007

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 92

(89) Mikhael, December 23, 2012 1:49 AM

Disagree- God is always there

it is on no one's free will to choose if anyone lives or dies, no one, except G-d. If I choose to do something evil, there is no guarantee that it will happen. If I take out a gun an want to shoot someone, i made the choice, and I will get the consequences for my wrong choice, but whether that person gets hurt is totally in the hands of G-d. If G-d designated that this is the day this person is to die then I just might be the messenger (using my own free choice). If I decide to not do it then he will still die, by a different means, whether a heart attack, stroke, car accident, stray bullet, etc... that exact time. If it was not decreed that he should die on that day, then no matter how hard i try i will not succeed. Either the gun will misfire, a police officer will spot me, or a many other things will go wrong. has a lecture entitled free will that discusses this.

(88) Anonymous, December 20, 2012 2:37 PM

what free will do the incurabley mentally ill, for one example, have? Don't respond that they may lead to a cure. Why are they so afflicted in the first place?

(87) zvi, December 20, 2012 12:50 PM

So why does God seemingly play a role in protecting some and not others? And in doing so, why is there no relationship to apparent good or evil of the individual? Does God not play any role in the daily activities of man? Or is He only present in history?

(86) ruth housman, December 17, 2012 7:32 PM

WRONG, God moves through our lives: Divine Providence

The word is Divine Providence and as far as I know, we Jews believe in Divine Providence, and this means, God wrote the story. We pray on Yom Kippur to be written in the BOOK of LIFE for another YEAR, so who do YOU think writes the script here? As painful as it must be, I am so sorry, to inform all of you hat you're wrong. And I know because I actually have the PROOF on paper, of a life of not a little but MASSIVE synchronicity, as in God is talking to me, every step of the way. So.. go to Jerusalem and pray at the Wailing Wall, with me, holding hands in spirit and soul, and pray to God to change this ancient story. Because we're all part of the same story. How hard is this? Very. When it comes to terror. So, I know, and will repeat as Anne Frank: I know it will all come out all right. She KNEW what I know. She just sinply did, and there's a reason THAT Diary is extant and a living loving document, a testament to us all, of something... MORE.

(85) Linda Rivera, December 16, 2012 7:30 PM

There is Never a time when G-d is not good! He is Always Good!

G-d allows many painful things in this lifetime. We cannot always understand, but we trust G-d. It will be different one day. All the pain, all the tears, and all the suffering will be gone. G-d has promised a glorious future where the evil ones will never again hurt another human being. My gratitude for ever for our Wonderful G-d.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment