How can I believe in God when there is so much suffering?

June 7, 2022 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
Read on for article

Ask the rabbi.

Rabbi Raymond Apple


Q. How can I believe in God when there is so much suffering?

A.  The British philosopher, CEM Joad, was an agnostic for many years because of this problem. Then he realised he was not asking the right question.

Instead of asking why there was no such suffering, he should have been asking where and how human beings derived the power to survive suffering.

He was now prepared to believe in God because he saw that there had to be a Power that sustained people in time of adversity.


Q. What should be said in a eulogy? Who should give the eulogy?

A. A “hesped” (eulogy) should bring benefit to both the dead and the living. It should delineate the deceased truthfully and tactfully. It should give comfort to the living at their time of loss as well as an exemplar as to how to commemorate the deceased in their own lives from now on.

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says in one of his essays that no one ever delivered a “hesped” saying, “Mr. X. What a man he was. He drove a Lamborghini, dressed in Armani, wore a Patek-Philippe, had a villa in Cap Ferrat and a pied-a-terre in Mayfair. This was a giant. We shall not see his like again.”

Some people might think that it is material things like these that identify a person, but what a eulogy should address is the good deeds the person did for others, and the contribution they made to the life of the family, the community and the world.

The eulogy should not tell any lies or give the impression that the deceased was a saint. But it should emphasise the good points about the deceased. There is no human being who is perfect.

Who should give the eulogy? I recall an occasion when the one who spoke was the deceased person herself, who had tape-recorded a farewell message for her friends. Sometimes the appropriate person to speak is a relative or friend.

Generally, it is the rabbi. But not every rabbi is competent to give a eulogy. I have sometimes been embarrassed at the way a colleague has spoken on an occasion of bereavement. A few examples: “He told me he had a lot in the bank”… “I know he had a hard time with his wife”… “I tink I met him vunce!” It is better not to speak if you don’t know how and haven’t done the appropriate homework first.

To whom is a eulogy directed? According to some views, it is God and not only the earthly family and friends to whom the eulogy should offer comfort. God has lost one of His creatures and He as the Creator needs support in His loss.

Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.