Breaking the Stick: Examining A Classic Anti-Torah Double-Bind

Written on Shevat 14, 5781

There's a parable that goes as follows: a master holds a stick and tells his students that if they say it doesn't exist, he'll hit them with it; if they say it does, he'll hit them with it; if they don't answer, he'll hit them with it. A student responds by breaking the stick.
This is analogous to a technique some atheists use to discredit theists. They ask us why a certain tragedy happens; when we say we don't know, they respond saying that G-d is evil. When we say we do know somewhat, they claim we are being "arrogant", despite this not even fitting with the definition of the word, which is assuming one is better than another due to vain reasons. The trick they use is giving us a dichotomy that results in a loss at both ends. How do we "break the stick"? By saying that it is irrelevant whether or not we can explain these things (and that humans, who don't know everything, cannot claim whether or not something is bad without an omniscient party informing us; G-d informs us in the Torah that all things are good). And THAT'S how you can "break the stick"!