The Apparent Injustice of this World

Rabbi Schmuley Boteach wrote an article that appeared on decrying the senseless brutal murder of a young boy on his way home from day camp.  This boy lived in the supposedly safe and insular Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park in New York.  This boy, Leiby Kletzky, had only eight short blocks to navigate.  He became lost and stopped to ask a stranger for directions.  You might think, hmm, didn’t his parents raise him better?  But this particular stranger had the bona fides of Orthodox Judaism – he wore the yarmulke, the headcovering favored by observant Jewish men.  It just so happened that this particular Jew was merely an animal disguised as a human being.  Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the garb he wore was less an indication of piety and more a way to fit in and not be noticed.  He took the boy and later killed and dismembered him.  Police found body parts in the man’s freezer. 

As Rabbi Boteach mentions in his article, we can probably conclude that this man, like Jared Loughner, who killed several people in Arizona, suffers from some severe mental illness.  Perhaps he hallucinated or heard voices.  He is currently on suicide watch in jail.  There is no rational reason for one human being to brutalize another in this way.  Rabbi Boteach tries to understand, tries to find some reason that this brutal crime was allowed to happen, and comes up dissatisfied.  He concludes by stating that “…G-d…has a lot of explaining to do”.

I agree that this killing was senseless and that the shocking nature of it will stop anyone with a shred of humanity in his tracks.  We cannot fathom the mind of the evil or the insane.  We simply have to put it down to Allah’s Divine Decree, or Qadr as it is called in Arabic.  This heinous crime may have gotten Rabbi Boteach’s attention, but it certainly not an uncommon thing for a child to die in a horrendous fashion.  Most often the deaths simply happen out of reach of the media.  Children die every day, unremarked by CNN or Fox News.

A few days ago, a Muslim woman in New Jersey died in childbirth; her twins died as well.  She left behind a grieving husband and three other children.  In April, a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan killed twenty-five, including women and children.  No doubt their bodies were abused by the deadly shell just as poor Leiby’s was by his killer.  In Somalia in April, 300 children were left for dead on the side of the road while their families journeyed to a refugee camp.  In Thailand, young girls sold into sex slavery die every day of diseases and addiction.  In the Chicago in the U.S., there were 68 murder victims between the ages of 13 and 18 last year. 

See, there is murder and mayhem aplenty in our world.  It only comes to our attention when it happens within our family or social circle.  Otherwise, we simply carry on with our lives, oblivious to the deaths happening every second.  Then, when it comes crashing into our lives, we wonder “How can a Just God allow this to happen?”.

You know, He just does.  Allah created and sustains the universe and when He created it and then created Aadam, peace be upon him, He set in motion the biggest test in the universe. He gave humans free will and allowed us to use that free will to become something greater than the angels, or lower than the most savage beasts of the earth.  He gave us the tools we needed to flourish – a world of beautiful vistas chock-full with food and water.  He gave us guidance in the form of prophets, messengers, and Books.  Over the centuries some men have risen to the challenge of being human.  Others have chosen to crawl in the mud and prey on the helpless.  It is part and parcel of our world.  Some of us get flowers and sunshine; others get something else.

It can be a challenge to our faith in God when something like this happens, but we have to hold fast to one truth:  death is death, and no matter the manner of our death, once we are dead, we are dead, and we don’t really care if our body is lying peacefully in a bed surrounded by loved ones or chopped up in bits and served with a nice bottle of Chianti in some Hannibal Lecter nightmare.  The manner of our death is not important; how we lived our lives is.  I’d rather be a chopped up body with a soul that is destined for Jannah than a well-preserved corpse whose recently departed soul is heading for the Fire.  The horror of a violent death is not ours, anyway.  It is reserved for those who survive us, who have to deal with the aftermath of mayhem, who have to miss the departed loved one and come to grips with their manner of death.  Leiby’s life is over; he will never be in pain again.  And as a child, he will not be held to account on the Day of Judgment.  What parent can wish more for his child than that he gets a free pass into Paradise?  Our test, the test of the survivors, is to make sure we live Godly lives so we can be in Jannah with our departed loved ones. 

Rabbi Boteach, God doesn’t have any explaining to do.  He already told us that this world is a test and that we will be tried.  Our tests are not noble or pretty; we don’t get to wrestle with angels or write an essay.  Our tests are earth-shaking and soul-shattering: cancer, a tsunami, a car crash, the death of a child.  These tests, these horrible, ugly, real world tests are where we have to rely on the true Justice of God and know that He will set things aright in the end.  Everything will be made right on Judgment Day, and those who are destined for Jannah will have every hurt healed, every sad memory expunged, every horror undone.  We just have to have the faith to stay strong until then. 

My heart goes out to the family of Leiby Kletzky and I pray that they and the entire Jewish community will be comforted in the knowledge that no one can ever hurt him again.  May Allah give us the patience to bear with dignity and grace the tests He places in our lives, Ameen.

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