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PREAMBLE: I'm processing (thinking about) all the comments and will try to update the question shortly. Thanks.

A few weeks ago I was having a debate with born-again Christians (they were trying to convert me -- I'm not Jewish and am an atheist) and I put a question to them which I've often used in other similar situations and is one that is of genuine interest to me: why did G-d (for those who think he/she exists) design the current Universe the way he did -- given that there is so much suffering in the world?

The example I often use is one that is very disturbing to me: when the Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele was conducting experiments on human children by boiling them alive -- why didn't G-d immediately intervene? If I understand the faculties ascribed to G-d according to most religions, he/she has infinite power, wisdom, transcends time. Why did he not design a universe that for example had protection systems for the weak. Like in science fiction movies a force field would protect the weak from the tormentor. I'm using this phrasing to conduct a though experiment -- an alternate design could have been where there was no human suffering.

So the question: does Judaism address this question of human suffering? Would appreciate it if I could get some insights that can be understood by a layman like me.

Thanks.

Notes:

  1. I realize that this may be related to the question on why G-d allows evil to exist like the one asked here -- but here is how mu question is different. One can suffer even in the absence of evil -- like say being burned in a car crash. On the the other hand a universe with safety mechanisms would prevent suffering even if evil existed.
  2. Regarding the note that: it's really G-d's choice how he/she wishes to design the universe -- I would again assume that G-d, one who has compassion and love would not choose a Universe with suffering -- I mean I'm a mere defective mortal and given the choice, even I would not choose a Universe with suffering
  3. On the note that it is irrelevant to those who suffer regarding what type of a universe they would prefer to live in (since they are not G-d) -- my submission would be that ethically (at least according to human ethics) the affectee, especially someone who is the lesser power-wise should have a say, especially since the suffer never really asked to be created or was given a choice in that matter and he/she has a frail existence vis-a-vis someone like G-d. So IMHO, yes they should have a say in the design of the Universe if they are going to be at the receiving end of suffering

Thanks.

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/8855/… – Loewian Aug 4 '15 at 23:44
  • (in fact, probably a dupe - the answers there seem to address this as well...) – Loewian Aug 5 '15 at 0:00
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    Most of the answers point out that it would obviate free will, including your free will to make the atheist mistake. – sabbahillel Aug 5 '15 at 10:41
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    @user1172468 There is a quote I can't find it now from the Talmud that someone only dies when all those that are affected by it (suffer from him dieing) deserve it. Children under 13/12 years old die for the sins of there parents (maybe you can say they gain from it). How can you take as an axiom that suffering is bad, there are a lot of examples how suffering is for the good. (Suffering is in the head) read the book Man's Search for Meaning. – hazoriz Aug 5 '15 at 13:14
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    @user1172468 Among other things, consider the discussions of Joseph being put into the pit by his brothers. Part of the discussion involves Hashem stopping the snakes and scorpions from biting or stinging Joseph (like Daniel in the lions' den), but not being "able" to stop the brothers if they had decided to murder him. This is a complex issue and may have answers elsewhere. – sabbahillel Aug 5 '15 at 19:22
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Before one can understand why the world is the way it is, he must first understand what is its purpose.

Ramchal and others teach that the purpose of this world is to act as an environment where human free will can function. (see Derech Hashem ch.2 and many other places).

This is why every phenomena has room for an atheistic explanation. God created life forms in a seeming common ancestry, the world appears like a cosmological accident, the cruelty of animals in nature, etc.

It is all necessary for the purpose of making room for free will and the requisite amount of it.

Once you understand this, then the problem of evil is not such a difficult question. We cannot understand all the details as God said to Job but we have a framework for understanding its necessity. Eventually all accounts will be balanced out.

This is discussed in more detail in a lecture by Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, one of the great Torah sages of our times.

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