Project Genesis

Reward and Punishment

Why "Bad" Things Happen

Suffering and Tests

Question: Many Jews suffer so much. Sometimes they are told that they deserve their suffering or that the suffering is a test. I believe such counsel is arrogant and counterproductive – it leaves the sufferer even more depressed. How is one to define passing if their whole life is a test? How do they know what they did to cause suffering? How can anyone know they deserve it? I thought we are not supposed to be judgmental.

Answer: I agree with you 100% that we (all of us) are not supposed to judge others and it upsets me, too, whenver I hear someone say that so-and-so deserved what happened to them. That sounds arrogant to me.

There is no way I can possibly know why someone else suffers something. Maybe they did something to deserve it, or maybe there is another reason, such as a test, that is to say, a challenge to make them into a better person.

The one thing I can be sure of is that their suffering has an ultimate purpose. Moreover, each of us is beholden to respond to the events in our lives by turning to the Almighty.

How so?

Well if it is true that God did create the universe and that God is infinite, then by definition, there is no event that can happen that is outside of God’s purview. Therefore when something happens to me, if I am spiritually tuned-in, my reaction should be to turn to God. If it feels good, I should say “Thank you”. If it feels bad, I should say “Please help me.”

It seems to me that how well we learn these two reactions is the definition of “passing the test” of life.

Rabbi Seinfeld

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