Why Do Good People Suffer?

Question

Why do good people suffer? I heard it can be a kappara atonement for a past life. Is this a Torah perspective?
If it is, is there a reason why a person would be punished by having to live again and suffer on Earth rather than be punished in Gehennim?

4 months

Answers

  1. Even though your question is a very valid one it is only relevant if the questioner believes in Hashem. But in order to ask the question one must be able to show an absolute contradiction to prove that there really was an injustice.

    Assuming that there was a an injustice does not disprove Hashem’s existence. Judaism is a religion that uses this world as a means to enter into the World to Come, because of this fundamental belief existence in this this world allows us many expectations, and it gives us a purpose in life – to build on our inherent spirituality and to try and draw closer to Hashem in order to enhance Hashem’s presence in this world.

    The Sages teach that the Creation of the world is based on Chesed, kindness. Hashem’s loving-kindness was to bestow the greatest possible
    good upon His created beings. And the ultimate and greatest good is Hashem Himself.

    Therefore, in order for mankind to try and emulate Hashem in this world beings must be created with free-will. To interfere in free-will of beings contradicts the whole purpose of Creation. That is why it is the norm that the righteous suffer and the evil prosper. To ask Hashem
    to intervene leaves open the question as to where to draw the line – Jews only? Murders only?

    It is clear that not all who appear “good” are in fact good and vice versa. Tradition teaches that punishment in this world is for any
    mistakes a person might have made, which allows for a person to enter the World to Come. In the same vein Long life is not always considered
    a sign of someone’s righteousness. In fact, Jewish Tradition is centered around the fact that physical death is merely a means of gaining entry into the World to Come.

    How is one to receive a place in the World to Come? By performing Mitzvot and keeping Hashem’s Torah. There are people in this world that deny the very existence of Hashem and they believe that they have no need for the World to Come. However, such people manage to perform
    plenty of Mitzvot during their lives. This is so even if they did so without any of the correct intentions at all. Hashem, then has to
    reward them for their actions with a form of “currency” that fits their lifestyle. One of the ways that Hashem has for rewarding the wicked is to grant them long life and riches in this world. This means that at their Final Judgment, the Heavenly Tribunal can check it’s records and see that all merits and rewards were paid in the physical world.

    The Zohar HaKadosh states, volume 1:146, that no one in the world ever managed to honor his father as much as Eisav did. The Midrash, Bereshit Rabbah 65:12, recounts that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, who was renowned for the way he fulfilled the commandment of Honoring Parents, said “All my life I exerted myself to fulfill the Mitzva of honouring my father, but I did not attain a hundredth degree of the honor which Eisav accorded his father.”

    The Sages teach that that is the reason the Eisav was granted such enormous wealth and to live longer than Yaakov.

    There is a Midrash that amplifies our inability ti fathom the ways of Hashem. “If I have found favor in Your eyes, My Hashem, show me Your
    ways” In this verse, according to the Midrash, Moses asked Hashem to explain Divine justice to him. The Midrash relates that, in response,
    Hashem said that He would show Moses two incidents of Divine justice. In the first scene shown to Moses, a soldier dismounts from his horse
    to have a drink at a small pond, as he gets back on his horse he drops a bag of money without realizing it. The soldier rides off and a
    teenage boy walking by, sees the money pouch, picks it up and walks away. Later an old man lies down by the pond to sleep, the soldier, who has now realized that he has lost his money, returns to the pond and sees the old man there. He asks the man where his money is and the old man claims not to know. The soldier then draws his sword and kills the man in anger. Hashem said to Moses, “See! Perfect justice!” Obviously Moses did not understand, so Hashem showed him yet another incident.

    In the second scene a young boy and his father are walking along a path in a forest. Suddenly a bandit attacks them, knocking the father
    unconscious and taking his money. A young military cadet observes the scene from behind some bushes where he had been resting, but he does not do anything until he sees the outcome of the attack. As the bandit is about to escape, the cadet jumps out with his sword, scaring the
    bandit, who drops the money and runs away. The cadet picks up the money and rides away, leaving the boy crying with his unconscious father lying nearby. Again Hashem said to Moses, “See! Perfect justice!,” and again Moses did not understand.

    Hashem then told Moses that the second scene that he was shown occurred before the first. The bandit of the second story is the old man in the first, who is killed by the soldier. The cadet who took the boy’s money in the second story and did not intervene to prevent the robbery, is the soldier who loses the money and kills the bandit [now an old man] in the first story. The teenager who finds the money in the first story is the child of the second story.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team