Dear Rabbi, My brother recently passed away at the age of 30. He had a very bad immune defficiency disease that affects about 200 (mostly Jews) in the world. He suffered all the years of his short life. I am religious, but my mother is not and my brother was also not. However, it’s still difficult for me to understand why he had to go through so much suffering. My question is, how do I explain to my mother why good people like him have to go through so much pain and suffering, while many others (who don’t seem to be good people) do not? And also, how do I explain to her that he is in a better place and with G-d? Please help. Thanks.
The question of Tzaddikim who suffer while there are wicked men who lead an easy and pleasant life is one that was asked by the Prophets. While the answers given are too deep and too extensive to include in a short letter, the basic principles can be stated. The first is that G-d does not do injustice and therefore all good deeds are recorded and rewarded and all evil is punished ( if there has not been Teshuva=repentance). The second is that the purpose of this life is to work- to contribute to the good in the world. Each person has a specific purpose within this context- what he can and should improve in the world; the role of Abraham was different than that of Moses. The role of Rabbi Akiva- who was martyred was different than that of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. Your late brother also contributed his particular goodness to the world. The third is that without prophecy it is not possible to know with certainty why any individual suffers and another does not. We are with G-d in this life as well as in the world to come. This life is also a good place when it is appreciated for what it is: not a place of reward but of labor. It is right to say that your brother is where he is receiving the rewards of his life in this world and where the good he did enjoys an eternal existence. May you and your mother know no further sorrow and may you find consolation in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.