30.02 Elaboration (pps.20-31)
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Group IV. Other mainstream traditional responses:
EXPLICATION AND CHALLENGE
A common cord running through much of the balance of theodicies is that suffering “chastens” man or “challenges” man. In the Book of Job, Elihu stresses the idea that suffering frequently serves as a source of moral discipline.99 Elihu maintains that by inflicting suffering, God chastens man.100
Variations and permutations of this theme appear through- out Jewish philosophy. However, this approach essentially con- cedes the major point: there is indeed such a phenomenon as undeserved suffering. Thus, it denies the correlation of suffering to sin of Theodicy Group 11. Some combine the two concepts. When suffering is not due to sin, it serves the purpose of chastisement. Thus, they “cover all bases,” with man remaining God’s unfortunate target in a no-win world.101
Another theme is that while God is perfect, the universe as a whole is not. This argument runs as follows: Religion must have the courage to face the facts; it must reject the dogmatic affirmations of religious thinkers through the ages that the universe is perfect, since only a perfect creation could have issued from an omnipotent and perfect Creator. It suggests that it is the worst form of anthropomorphism to assert that an omnipotent and omniscient God would only be responsible for an immaculate universe. It merely states what man, imagining himself almighty and all-wise, would do. God alone should be assumed to be perfect. Perfection, according to this theme, is identical with God; it cannot exist outside Him. But creation is separate from the Creator. The world is apart from God; it is, therefore, of necessity, imperfect. 102
Significant support for this approach can be gleaned from various elements of kabbalistic literature. The motif of the “breaking of the vessels,” with all of its variations and permutations, plays a major role in Lurianic Kabbalah.103 The universe did not end up perfect.
The story of the “blasphemous” tailor presents the theme in Jewish folklore. When the rabbi reproached the tailor for
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99 Cf. Gordis, The Book of God and Man, p. 145. ” ‘Yet he bore the sin of many’ [Isaiah 52: 13, 55:3. 4, 5, 121. . . . Thus for the first time, the prophet affirmed the possibility of national suffering that was not the consequence of national sin, but on the contrary, a tragic, yet indispensable element in the process of the moral education of the race. For the first time the nexus between suffering and sin is severed.”
100 Cf. Luzzatto, The Way of God, p. 101. “God gave suffering the power to dispel the insensitivity in man, allowing him to become pure and clear, prepared for the ultimate good at its appointed time.”
101 See Cohen, The Trernendum, p. 51.
102 Berkovits, God, Man and History, pp. 75-76.
103 See Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 10, col. 594.
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