How Can You Believe in God?
by Shmuel Greenbaum
On the afternoon of August 9, 2001 a terrorist carrying a guitar case filled with explosives entered the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem and detonated a bomb killing or wounding over 100 victims. Among the dead was my wife Shoshana who was expecting our first child.
When I speak in public, there is one question people always ask me; I imagine it’s the same question they ask the survivors of the London Subway bombing, 9/11, or the Norway attack; people always ask me “How can you believe in God?”
Our natural tendency is to focus on the bad, especially when we are immersed in a horrific tragedy. Before my wife was murdered I had been the happiest man in the world married to the most wonderful woman in the world. We had just moved into a new home and our heads were filled with wonderful dreams. Then, in an instant, I became the loneliest man in the world. I lived in fear that terrorists would track me down and kill me and perhaps kill hundreds of people in the United States as they had my wife and my unborn child.
What pulled me through this tragedy were the people who were there for me in my darkest hours—the friends and relatives who supported me with my physical and emotional needs and the strangers who opened their hearts to relieve my burdens.
Wherever I speak, I ask the audience to describe the community’s response to a local tragedy. When I speak to audiences in the United States I ask them, “What happened right after 9/11?”
Shortly after 9/11, I asked that question to several hundred students at New York’s Stuyvesant High School, located a few blocks north of the World Trade Center site. There was still tremendous stress and fear in the voices of the students as they described how the police evacuated the school and they ran for their lives as a cloud of thick black smoke raced towards the building.
Then they described the thousands of people who asked – “What can we do to help?” Volunteers rushed to donate blood, to dig through the rubble, to counsel the victims and countless other acts of kindness. According the New York Times, two-thirds of Americans donated money to the victims of 9-11.
Over the past 10 years I have asked this question to audiences of all ages and I have always heard the same responses. So I was shocked at what I heard when I spoke recently to 300 junior high school students in Kew Gardens Hills, New York, a few miles away from the World Trade Center site. When I asked them this question all they told me was that “people became patriotic” and “America went to war.”
“Are those the only things that happened right afterward?” I asked them and they looked back at me with blank stares. They were too young to remember what happened, so I asked their teachers one-by-one to tell the audience what happened right after 9/11 and each teacher mentioned a different act of kindness.
“It’s not in your history books?” I asked the children with disbelief. “Don’t you learn about it in school?” There was total silence in the room and I was left speechless. The most fundamental lesson in our belief in mankind and our belief in God was never taught to our children—if you don’t see people doing acts of kindness, you can’t believe in God.
It takes great effort to see the good. But seeing the good is the only hope we have for our sanity and for our society. Seeing the Godliness in people is the only way we can be Godly. And that is why just two months after 9-11 and three months after the attack that killed my wife, I vowed to teach the world kindness. I met with a group of friends in my community to discuss how to make the world a better place.
We decided to start a daily email newsletter to offer readers stories of kindness. A Daily Dose of Kindness was begun and the group became an organization called “Partners in Kindness.” An email list of 150 soon expanded around the world to an audience of well over 2 million. Hundreds of organizations requested permission to reprint the kindness stories in newspapers, magazines and on the internet.
Atrocities and tragedies happen all the time; most of the time we can’t control them and that makes us feel helpless. However this is something that we can sometimes overcome. It has been scientifically proven that feelings of helplessness in some cases can be overcome by helping others. It’s tremendously gratifying to me every time I receive reports that the kindness emails have made subscribers happier and in some cases have even helped them to overcome depression.
How can I believe in God? After reading about acts of kindness and Godliness every day and doing acts of kindness myself, how can I not believe in God?
August 9, 2011 is not only the 10th anniversary of the Sbarro terrorist bombing, it is also the date of the Jewish Holiday Tisha B’Av – A day when Jews throughout the world remember genocide and hatred throughout history and transform their mourning into acts of kindness.
As part of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist bombing that killed Shmuel Greenbaum’s wife, Partners in Kindness is donating thousands of copies of A Daily Dose of Kindness to public libraries. Hundreds of US Libraries already have copies on their shelves. Distribution to libraries throughout the world begins today.
Shmuel Greenbaum is the founder of Partners in Kindness and the Author and Editor of A Daily Dose of Kindness, A response to terror, Stories from the Heart, Book One, In Love with Israel. He can be contacted at info@PartnersInKindness.org or http://www.PartnersInKindness.org