How Did This Happen?

Image: The word “Eicha” (How) in Hebrew letters. 

Eicha?! How?!

That’s the howl that begins the book of Lamentations. That’s the cry of every human heart that suffers a terrible injustice.

How did this happen?

How am I to cope?

How am I to go on living?


The truth is that the world is full of dangers and terrible events, much of it seemingly random. We look to God for justice and mercy and it seems that there is no answer, just a silence. It seems unfair. It is unfair.

I do not know why dreadful things happen. I don’t know why some parents have to bury their children. I don’t know why cruel people seem to go about their business unscathed. I don’t know why cancer and other sicknesses take so many before their time, and I don’t know why the treatments have to be so hard to endure. I do not have easy answers to any of these things.

I believe that some hurts cannot be healed.

Nevertheless, I believe we are given as gifts to one another. We cannot repair a broken heart, but we can sit with the suffering person and let them know they are not alone. We can be there for one another in bad times.

We can give one another room to grieve. We can witness one another’s pain. We can say, “Yes, you are mad at God right now, and I will sit here beside you.” We can summon the strength to not try to fix it.

This is why we are given mitzvot – so that we will know how to be with one another. The world can be a terrible place, but with good deeds, we can make it a little kinder.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

2 thoughts on “How Did This Happen?”

  1. Beautiful. And yes, there’s absolutely no consolation. But if I may add:
    I think that even though we can’t fully understand, we are obliged, and it really makes it easier for us if we succeed even only somewhat, to TRY and understand. How is it that דרך רשעים צלחה, that bad people seem to succeed in life etc. How is it that HaShem with all his perfection created such a seemingly imperfect world. Answers to these questions, or at least some hints of answers, are primarily to be found in some of the books of our Sod Rabbis. I found them very helpful in life, and will mention two of them: the Ramha”l in his Daat Tvunot (דעת תבונות), and Baal Haleshem in his books (Rabbi Shlomo Elyashau and his לשם שבו ואחלמה) , which are simply grand, but are less accessible, because they require previous Kabala knowledge.
    But you’re right – many times we are just left with איכה…
    Be strong and feel well!

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