The Talmud in its very first Tractate, Berachot, instructs, if a man sees that painful sufferings visit him, let him examine his conduct (The question is asked, “Are your sufferings welcome to you?”). We can expand this verse to mean that when we are witness to the sufferings of others, one’s own conduct should be examined. My approach to this is that we examine our own conduct in either case, not in order to assign blame or search for sin; rather, we can pursue how we use this hardship as a catalyst to give greater meaning to our covenantal relationship with God and our commitment to healing our world.
Our covenantal spirit may become crushed, and we can feel paralyzed when tragedy befalls us and when we witness tragedy befalling others. The tragedy ought to broaden and deepen our commitment, energizing us toward moral renewal and healing. The weight of the world is not on the back of God. The weight of the world is on our shoulders to bear. Our 32nd president, commenting upon whether society is improving, once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough to those who have little.”
We can discuss the mystery of suffering of the innocent at any time. But the real tragedy and curse to our soul is if we allow that mystery from preventing us to be God’s vehicle for blessing.