By the Grace of G‑d
7th of Iyar, 5727
[May 17, 1967]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

I duly received your letter, in which you write about various things which you do not understand, such as the suffering of your father, etc.

Judging by your letter, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at length the obvious idea, namely that it is certainly not surprising that a human being does not understand the ways of G‑d, for a created and finite being surely cannot understand the Infinite. The opposite would rather be surprising, and it is only due to G‑d’s infinite kindness that He has revealed to man certain aspects of His Divine Providence. There is a simple illustration: It would surely not be surprising that a five-year-old child could not understand the conduct of a great scientist, even though the scientist was at one time a five-year-old boy, and the present five-year-old boy may grow up and become even a greater scientist. In other words, the five-year-old boy is potentially in possession of all the qualities of the mature scientist, yet it would not be surprising that the five-year-old boy cannot understand the great scientist. But a created human being has nothing in common with the Creator insofar as intelligence and capacities are concerned. It is only that because of G‑d’s kindness that certain aspects of G‑d’s Providence have been revealed to man, including also the question of suffering, where we can use a similar analogy.

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When a young child is told to sit down and learn the ABC, and do homework, etc., this deprives him of going out into the fresh air, sometimes interferes with having his meal on time, and might also curtail his sleeping hours, etc. The child, while complying with these instructions, is not doing so because he realizes their wisdom, but because he has no choice in the matter, since he is compelled by his father or mother or teacher to do this. This is not a case where his freedom is curbed so that he would not go about breaking windows, and the like. Insofar as the child is concerned, it is for him true suffering to be deprived of fresh air, or rest, etc., which by common consent are considered good things. Nevertheless, of what consideration is the child’s temporary suffering, even though it extends for days or months, by comparison with the good which he will enjoy thereby for the rest of his life.

A further point to remember is this: When a person who has been ill succumbs to his illness, it is clear to every normal person that the illness could affect only the physical body. Obviously if there is something wrong, say, with the blood of the patient, it cannot affect the patient’s spiritual life and his everlasting soul. In other words, when a patient succumbs to an illness, this only happens because the union between the soul and the body has come to an end, but the soul is an everlasting one, and this is one of the basic foundations of our Jewish faith, as many other faiths.

In the Torah it is frequently explained and emphasized that life on this earth is only a preparation for the future and everlasting life in the world to come. This is also taught in the well known Mishnah of Pirkei Avos, which we read and study these Shabbosim. The Mishnah states, “This world is like a vestibule to the future world; prepare yourself in the vestibule so that you can enter the banquet hall” (Perek 4, 21).

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Now, when during the time when one is in the vestibule there has been a period of suffering, whereby there will be an infinite gain in the “banquet hall,” it will surely be worthwhile. It is impossible to describe the joys of the life of the soul in the world to come, for even in this world while the soul is connected with the body, its life is on an infinitely higher plane; how much more so when the soul is no longer distracted by the body. Compare the joy and excitement of a child when he receives a tasty candy, with the joy of a very wise and learned scientist who succeeds in resolving an important scientific problem. Here again, as mentioned before, there is some connection between the child and the scientist, and everything is relative. But insofar as the life on this earth and the life of the soul in the future world is concerned, the differences are not of degree but of kind, and there is no common denominator between the two.

At the same time it should be remembered that the suffering in the “vestibule,” which is no more than a corridor to the “banquet hall,” is after all a temporary one, and the gain is eternal.

Of course, you may ask why things are so conditioned that one must give up something in order to gain more. This would be the same as a child asking why he must give up his outdoor pleasures, etc. But surely it is not unkindness to the child to “deprive” him so.

I trust that the above will suffice to answer your question.