The Sandy Hook Children Belong With Their Parents, Not in Heaven

December 20, 2012 4:25 pm 4 comments

Flowers for those who died in the Sandy Hook shootings. Photo: Wikipedia.

I know he was trying to be comforting, but President Obama’s comments at Sandy Hook about God perpetuates the myth that we humans ought to always see God in the role of comforter. God is supposed to be our protector and Biblically we’re supposed to challenge God in the face of suffering rather than believe that innocent people dying is somehow His will.

After reading the first names of all the twenty children who were murdered, here is what President Obama said:

God has called them all home… May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place.  May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort.  And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America.

Called them home? What? Their home is with their parents in Connecticut, not at the divine throne in heaven.

‘His holy comfort’? Who wants that? We want these kids alive and well, not some substitute comfort.

May God ‘bless and watch over this community.” Wait a second. Was he watching when Adam Lanza shot each of these children multiple times? And if He was, which I as a religious man firmly believe, then why didn’t He stop it?

Obviously, this isn’t about President Obama. It’s about a prevalent and fraudulent belief in world religion, captured in the President’s otherwise moving speech, that when tragedy strikes our first impulse should be to defend God rather than rail and thunder against the injustice of it all. God’s first role is not supposed to be as our consoler-in-chief. Rather, He’s supposed to be our foremost guardian. If He could split the Red Sea than He can stop an ‪.223-calibre Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle’s bullets. If He could bring down the walls of Jericho than He could have made the walls of the Sandy Hook school impregnable to monsters. And if he could revive the dead with Elisha than He could preserve the life of these small children.

Why God is silent and seemingly absent in the face of so much suffering is the real question about the Sandy Hook massacre. These kids were innocent. Does God not promise to protect the innocent? The Lord will protect you from
 all evil; 
He will keep your soul.” (Psalm 121) These kids were vulnerable. Does God not promise to guard the defenseless? “The Lord is the keeper of little ones: I was humbled, and he delivered me.” (Psalm 116:6) These kids deserved long lives. Does God not promise to safeguard humanity? ”I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” (Psalms 61:4)

Judaism gave rise to the defiant man of faith, the man who like Jacob spars with angels and defeats them. The Jew is a child of Abraham who went so far as to accuse God of injustice when the Almighty sought to the destruction of both the righteous and the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah at once. He is the disciple of Moses who thundered to God that he wished his name to be taken out of God’s holy Torah if the Creator would proceed with His stated intention of wiping out the Jewish nation after the sin of the Golden Calf. Like King David who declares in Psalms, “I shall not die for I shall live,” the Jew has achieved immortality through an impudent insubordination in the face of historical inevitability, daring to defy fate and forge an audacious destiny.

Our role in life should not be to offer empty platitudes in the face of suffering about how murdered children are in heaven. Rather, we have a right to demand from God that He abide by the same values and rules that He commanded us to uphold. Through Moses He commanded us to always choose life. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Duet. 30:19) Must God not also choose life? Are we human beings just so much cosmic chaff that when our children are slaughtered we are meant just to bow our heads in silent submission?

No. The role of religion is not to make us compliant. Rather, faith galvanizes us to make the world a better place. That means fighting evil and protecting life. It means building hospitals and developing medicines. And it also means demanding of God that He show Himself in history and help us to make the world a safer place.

We can’t stop every monster-psycho like Adam Lanza. But He can. And spare me the arguments that say if God were to stop evil we would not have any freedom of choice. When Adam Lanza grabbed his mother’s guns and started over to the Sandy Hook school, he could easily have been hit by a bus and noone would have been the wiser. It would not have compromised anyone’s freedom of choice.

Challenging God in the face of suffering is not blasphemous. Rather, it is deeply religious and the ultimate sign of faith. It means we believe that God controls the world, controls human fate, controls the world’s destiny, and has it in His unlimited power to make the world a happier place.

President Obama is an eloquent speaker. But rather than let God off the hook, in the face of tragedy I would rather hear him say, “Lord, we Americans are a righteous people. We spend endless blood and treasure around the world to untie the hands of the oppressed, to protect the rights of women, and to safeguard children from terrorists. We give huge amounts of charity and Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques dot the fruited plane. We have Your holy name printed even on our money, and we have a national day of Thanksgiving to thank You for Your bounty. We deserve better than to see twenty tiny precious souls slaughtered so brutally. In the name of all that is righteous and as the Chief Magistrate of this great nation, I ask You, I implore You, I demand of You, to protect our children, Your children, from harm, so that all the peoples of the world will see Your great hand in history and how the innocent are allowed to flourish, prosper, and grow old with children of their own.”

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, and will shortly publish The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

4 Comments

  • I think this is the first time I have laughed since the CT tragedy last Friday. So, thanks for that! Rabbi, this is sort of a “rage against the dying of the light” thing, huh?

    I am hoping that your perspective, together with the submissive Christian perspective President Obama expressed, are not our only alternatives when it comes to spiritual framing of our earthly catastrophes. Though of the two responses, the Christian one does seem more rational.

    I mean no disrespect when I point out that it indeed sounds a bit delusional to insist to the invisible wind that “God” be God. Or else what?

    Now I understand all my little Jewish friends in school, why they were never embarrassed or humiliated. They believed it was their birthright to challenge authority! And more power to them! How I envied their seeming immunity to punishment.

    Those of us raised to feel guilty over every imagined wrong were indeed weakened and confused, while our Jewish counterparts must have been empowered by adversity. This explains Netanyahu’s new determination to develop more settlements in Gaza despite the recent Palestinian recognition by the UN!

    I believe it is time for us to grow up, Rabbi. It is clearly useless to demand one more breath or heartbeat from the Creator of all that is. The wisdom of surrender, though it may appear “weak” in your eyes, is obvious. In the case of Sandy Hook, there is no choice, whether one believes in a Divine Creator or not.

    The Serenity Prayer, spoken by countless members of AA – God grant me the Serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference – is the only SANE philosophy for believers and non-believers alike. Demanding an invisible, imaginary Heavenly Father to be “better” is laughable at best and outright insane at worst. Adam Lanza no doubt felt rage and confusion, though he dealt with both in a methodical way that “felt” appropriate and justifiable to him. Perhaps he too was angry at God, and secretly defied God to stop him if He could!

    There are other alternatives which posit that human life, triumph and misery, are mere stepping stones in learning to see a much bigger picture WE CANNOT POSSIBLY EVEN INTUIT. A ray of the sun may or may not comprehend its source or destiny, or even know much about its fellow sunrays, nor does it matter, as any atheist or humanist will attest to. The ray really has no choice but to do its appointed job.

    The impulses that drive us forward might not always be healthy or loving, as in the case of Mr. Lanza and others, including some bankers, doctors, and world leaders who do not have the good of the whole in mind. They are like cancers, amassing cells at the expense of the very organism that sustains them. I’m sure you know such people.

    I and others believe it is a time in history when, if we are to survive as a species, we need to put aside our personal beliefs and desires (including our limited concepts of the Divine) and ask more important questions: What will enable humanity to move into a new era of cooperation wherein all people are able to live in dignity and peace? How can we live in some degree of physical comfort without usurping natural resources needed by future humans? How can we wean ourselves off of this wasteful, destructive path and sustain our culture at the same time? Telling ourselves that God “should” do things for us is well, childish and unconstructive. We truly need a more inspiring vision than that.

    Stand on a hilltop and demand that God answer these questions, be my guest. But Rabbi, I don’t think God opened the Red Sea or engraved words in stone. God doesn’t need words. God doesn’t need our worship or respect either. And YOU are not specially chosen because you are Jewish. I’m sorry if you really believe God vanquished some enemies of the Jews way back, but that is not logical or true. It is only what was written by your own people so you would feel special and cohesive and strong.

    Back to present time, for all of our sakes, I’m certain it is time for us to WAKE UP and CHANGE COURSE. If that means forsaking ancient religions, so be it. Rant at God all you want, then get back to the matter at hand. We have made a big mess and now we need to clean it up, starve the cancer, flush the colon, kill the greed and corruption before it is absolutely too late for even God to redeem, if “He” is even interested.

    Respectfully,

  • There’s very little righteous about Americans as a whole currently. You can look at the entertainment of her people, the murder of millions of unborn babies and the breaking down of the family-just three of many examples-which reveal the heart of our country as one who no longer recognizes the Sovereignty of G-d in our lives; He is just a name on a dollar bill.
    HaShem is acknowledged now only in times of mourning, but otherwise His Name is constantly being diminished in the public sphere by secularism.
    There’s a reason why HaShem allows things – He allowed parents to consume their children during the siege of Jerusalem – we just don’t always know why. He does still intervene – but not always in a way we recognize or every time we want Him to.
    The actions of man isn’t evidence of a G-d who sits on the sidelines, but of degenerate man who has rejected His Teachings and of very real evil; this world needs repairing for a reason; not to mention a Reigning Mashiach. If He repeatedly intervened every time man committed evil then there would be no need for Tikkun Olam prior to that Coming.

    Shalom

  • Or rather than challenging God for his inaction, you could consider it just one more amongst millions of data points consistent with God’s non-existence.

    If we want to protect our children, we’d best do it ourselves, because at times of crisis, God is consistently nowhere to be found.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.