It’s been another deathfest these past couple of weeks, after a good two months in which, thank Gd, people stayed mostly healthy. I’ve lost some great friends and role models.
And, as inevitably happens at these times, I’ve heard people say, “It’s unfair.”
I have to disagree (although I would never say so aloud; to insult a mourner in his time of grief would be the cruelest stupidity).
I, too, am stabbed by pain. I hate eulogizing people, I am tired of the grieving process. Why do we have to lose anyone, let alone such good people? They were in the prime of life, or they were just about to enjoy retirement, or they were anticipating the birth of a grandchild, or they were doing good things, or they didn’t have a chance to say Goodbye…
But I do disagree with the “unfair” label.
Of course, from a Jewish perspective I disagree because we are taught to say ברוך דיין האמת, Blessed be the Judge of Truth, upon hearing of a death. We express this religious sentiment, which we hope we will come to feel in the course of the grieving process. We long to heal the ruptured relationship with Gd, to see through the immediate grief and agony and appreciate the good we were given.
But, beyond that longing for reunion with Gd, I think saying “it’s unfair” is illogical.
I see four logical arguments regarding Gd’s role in life and death:
1. Gd creates life as well as death.
2. Gd creates life, and not death.
3. Gd creates death, but not life.
4. Gd neither creates life nor death.
There may be gray areas in between, such as the idea that Gd is responsibility for “big picture” but not for details, but I don’t see that those shaded ideas contribute anything new here, so I omit them.
View #2 (possibly supported by Rava in Moed Katan 28a) says that death is the agent of unknowing fortune, and so it can hardly be termed “unfair” – “unfair” suggests a decision was made.
Similarly, View #4 assumes that no decision was made, and so death cannot be “unfair.”
View #3 strikes me as entirely against any idea of Gd I might conceive. I could sooner understand total atheism. So I discount this as well.
That leaves me with only View #1, which is the traditional Jewish view. If View #1 is true, then everything we received until this point is a gift… and how can I call rescension of a gift “unfair”?
I am in pain, but I concede that I have received far too much to ever say that the end of this gift is unfair.
ברוך דיין האמת.
[This week’s Haveil Havalim is here.]