Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista,  has created a pearl of a book that I highly recommend. It is a fascinating, encompassing, very erudite and broad in scope. Rather than just Covid, or Judaic angle, this is a general book that reflects on the question of religion and the benevolent God in the presence of so much human misery, natural disasters and plagues.

In 1755, after the Lisbon earthquake that killed thousands, Voltaire expressed his despair. Strange that such a genius mind seems to have been so “forgetful” while history (from the Vesuvius ruining Pompeii to the Black Plague that killed 1 in 3 of all Europe – Covid has killed so far 1 in 500 ) demonstrates much more horrific cases. And yet, the question of bad things happening to good people has been pondered from time immemorial.

This book is an excellent and penetrating study of such cases and how the believer can navigate thru such conundrum.  Rabbi Samuel reviews the opinions of believers and heretics (Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant, Hitchens or Dawkins) in regards to the moral and practical aspects of the great questions.  Indeed, can we ponder “the anger of God” or otherwise, are these natural occurrences that can be expected. After all, the plague is mostly the result of humans concentrating in large civic centers with their hygiene and density (the easy transmission of germs and viruses) challenges.

The Jewish angle of the issue, especially the various Jewish libels (as if Jews cause of plagues, a historical tradition especially in the west) is also analyzed  as part of antisemitism and the Jewish saga in the diaspora.  Such issues of God’s benevolence and reality never have clear answers and are constantly evolving as we progress. The questions were pondered from the days of the prophets to this day. Yet, the analysis is brilliant, the material expressed clearly and the material laid-out methodically and easy to read. For the believer, God is involved in every aspect of our lives, yet there is free-will and human action. Where do we separate our responsibilities from God’s involvements?  Get a copy and enjoy!

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San Diego County resident Bar-Giora Goldberg is author of The Mind is Mightier.  He may be contacted via bargiorawriter@gmail.com 

Republished from San Diego Jewish World