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Ask the rabbi Torah and Jewish Thought The Jewish Attitude to Evil

Life test vs. punishment

Question
How do you know when you’re being punished and when you’re being tested?
Answer
Hashem does only good things to us (Brachot 60b) Sometimes we can't see the obvious good, sometime painful things come across our lives, nevertheless it is all for our best. These painful events may be a Tikun – a rectification for our soul for something wrong we've done, or if one is sure there is nothing to rectify, it might as well be a sign of love and the fact Hashem believes in us and wants to purify and refine us (ibid 5a).
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