The classic problem of theodicy: If there is a God, how can there be evil in the world? Jewish approaches to the question, from the Bible to after the Holocaust.
Catalog Description: Origin, nature, and representations of evil from Scripture through the Hasidic masters. Reflections of modern thinkers.
From the Syllabus: The problem of evil and seemingly inexplicable suffering not only poses a major challenge to the belief in a moral God but also to religion in general. Although it is a problem that cannot be solved and thus may appear as a futile intellectual activity, it is also—simply put—a problem that won’t go away.
What do changes in our understanding of the problem of evil reveal about changes in our understanding of ourselves, of our place in the world, and human agency?
We will begin our discussion with the Book of Job, which sets the framework for all subsequent reflections on the theme. Our primary focus will be on modern Jewish responses to and rationalizations of the experience of suffering (“justified suffering,” “meaningful suffering”) and how they shape Jewish ethics. The course concludes with post-Shoah (Holocaust) theodicies and anti-theodicies.
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