Suffering and Prosperity: A Jewish Philosophical Exploration

Drisha Institute for Jewish Education

14526 hrs 40 mins

The problem of evil is one of the oldest and gravest challenges to religious belief. In this series of lectures we will mine Jewish texts and themes to grapple philosophically with that challenge. We will examine the ways in which the challenge was understood to begin with, a number of proposed solutions, and the view that we shouldn’t try to propose solutions at all. Lecture 1: The Problems of Evil In this lecture we will discuss some classical philosophical formulations of “the problem of evil”, and compare them to the dominant formulation in Biblical, Rabbinic, and Jewish philosophical texts. What emerges are subtly but importantly different problems. We will then detail several presuppositions that we will hold fixed throughout the series of lectures. Lecture 2: ‘Thou hast made him but little lower than the angels’: Theodicies of Gadlut Ha’adam In this lecture we will turn to a number of proposed solutions to the problems of evil that place human beings at the center of the cosmos and creation: the so-called free-will theodicy and soul-making theodicies. We will explore their philosophical cogency and their fit with Jewish tradition. Lecture 3: ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?’ Theodicies of Katnut Ha’adam In this lecture we will shift to theodicies that move human beings to the periphery, that remind us of our smallness, in a way. These include a multiverse theodicy, and an axiological shift. We will explore their philosophical cogency and their fit with Jewish tradition. Lecture 4: Skeptical Theism and Anti-theodicy We will conclude the series with a philosophical and theological discussion of two approaches to our issue that in one way or another run counter to the endeavor of providing theodicies: the one by denying its necessity, the other by denying its legitimacy.