The Righteous Who Suffer, the Wicked Who Prosper

by tillerofthesoil

There are righteous to whom it befalls as though they did wickedly, and there are wicked to whom it befalls as though they did righteously (Ecclesiastes 8:14).

Please, let me know Your ways (Exodus 33:13). [Moses] said before Him, ‘Master of the Universe, why do some of the righteous prosper while others suffer? And why do some of the wicked prosper while others suffer? He replied, ‘Moses, a righteous one who prospers is righteous born of righteous; a righteous one who suffers is righteous born of wicked. A wicked one who prospers is wicked born of righteous; a wicked one who suffers is wicked born of wicked'” (BT Berakhot 7a).

“What is the meaning of the verse Why do You tolerate traitors, and keep silent while the wicked swallows up the one more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13). Can the wicked swallow up the righteous?… This means, however: He swallows up the one who is only more righteous than he, but he cannot swallow up the one who is completely righteous” (BT Berakhot 7b).

“Sons, life and sustenance do not depend on merit but מַזָּלא (mazzala), the flux of destiny. For [take] Rabbah and Rav Ḥisda. Both were saintly; one master prayed for rain and it came, the other master prayed for rain and it came. Rav Ḥisda lived to the age of ninety-two, Rabbah lived to the age of forty. In Rav Ḥisda’s house sixty marriage feasts were held, at Rabbah’s house there were sixty bereavements. At Rav Ḥisda’s house there was the purest wheaten bread for dogs, and it was not wanted; at Rabbah’s house there was barley bread for human beings and that not to be had” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 28a).

For there is no man righteous on earth who does good and will not offend (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

“According to his merits and liabilities. As we have explained, he who does one mitsvah is treated well. He who is average, is a person whose merits and liabilities are balanced, the half of merits is below and the half of debts below. This is the secret of What is your petition, and it shall be granted to you, and what is your request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done! (Esther 5:6). In the case of a completely righteous man, all his merits are above and his liabilities below. For a completely wicked man, his liabilities are above and his merits are below” (Zohar 3:111a, Ra’aya Meheimna Behar).

“If his offences are many and his mitsvot few, then he receives his reward in this world, [and this] is a wicked man who prospers… The masters of Mishnah taught: ‘Woe to him for whom the hour smiles’ [for he receives his reward during his lifetime] (BT Berakhot 7b)” (Zohar 3:230b, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

When the wicked spring up as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever (Psalms 92:8).