For Jews, suffering is a communal experience, visited upon us at the hands of other people. The struggle in Jewish thought has been how to respect that suffering and yet offer some sense even to the senselessness of our suffering. The ethically and spiritually strongest vision has been one of representative, asymmetrical, communal suffering: we expose ourselves to suffering for the sake of others. The martyr does not will suffering but suffers for the sake of God's name. And in many strands of this theme, God suffers with the suffering Jews. Such an understanding of suffering is not foreign to Christianity, even though God is seen to suffer for the Christian and even though the imitation of God's suffering is often understood to be that of an individual. The decisive conflict between Jews and Christians lies in the asymmetry of suffering and in the immorality of justifying another's suffering. However, attention to the threefold character of suffering, as I have portrayed here, can treat the wound in the Jewish mind. We do have ways of speaking about suffering, of taking responsibility for our suffering and, even more, for the suffering of others. The protest against suffering and against the justification of suffering is not foreign to either Jewish or Christian thinking. Both traditions teach us the responsibility to work to stop both our own suffering and the suffering of others.
A Christian Response to Leora Batnitzky
JOHN C. CAVADINI
Leora Batnitzky's essay depicts the richness of Jewish and Christian theological traditions on the subject of suffering. It is a richness that belies the simplistic views one often finds at the surface of opinion.