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Rabbi Rami: "Is My Friend Responsible for her Cancer?"

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My closest friend has stage IV lymphoma. She’s always been a negative person. Could this be why she has cancer?Rabbi Rami: While our mental and spiritual states can impact our physical health, there are far too many variables involved with cancer to blame your friend’s personality for her illness. More interesting is why you even consider doing so. Would it comfort her to know she’s responsible for her cancer? Or does it comfort you in that you can say to yourself, “This can’t happen to me since I’m not a negative person”? No one deserves to be ill or well. Illness and wellness are simply part of the scheme of things. What we deserve is to be treated justly and with compassion regardless of the turns our lives take. Don’t ask, “Why is my friend suffering?” Ask, “What can I do to help her bear her suffering more effectively?”Do you ever doubt the truths you believe in? How do you maintain your faith?I cherish doubt and cultivate it. I welcome the challenge of new ideas, especially those in conflict with my own. I embrace doubt to clear my mind of cherished opinions masquerading as truth. Doubt isn’t the …

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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