This is the question that was asked: Stories like those you write of your brother do the opposite of inspiring me. they frustrate me to no end. its the very picture of tzaddik v'ra lo. there are times i read stories like these and i feel almost sure that being too good,too holy is a sure way to shorten your life. you read the obituaries in the papers and they are full of young righteous people. your brother did everything right. i'm sure he earned arichut yamim, so why didn't he get too see 16? i don't find any peace in hearing its hashem's will. that kind of answer reminds me of when i was a kid and my mother would tell me "because i said so, thats why" . its a throw away answer and leaves me no wiser than before i asked. if a boy like this didn't have the zechutim to save him, if the couple in dubai didn't have the zechutim to save them, if talia applebaum didn't have the zechuyot to save her, what hope is there for us regular folks? why should God grant me life and not them? I'm sorry if this rubs salt on a wound but i need to know.
To read the beginning of this topic, click here.
At the Shabbos table this week, we discussed this question. We know people young because they are tzadikim from a posuk in last week’s parsha. In 10:3 it says “bikrovay akadesh”. Hashem says He will make Himself Holy through those who are close to Him. When Hashem judges even the greatest tzadik with exact judgment, it is a lesson about His Perfection. Only G-d is perfection. Even these great men have flaws, since they are human. So much more so the wicked!
Rashi explains that when Hashem said “venikdash bichvodi”, “I will be made Holy through my honor”, it can mean “venikdash bemichubodai”, “I will be made Holy through those who honor Me”. Moshe told Aharon that he thought the one through which Hashem would make Himself Holy was either Moshe or Aharon. Now Moshe saw that Nadav and Avihu were greater than Moshe and Aharon, because Hashem chose them to make Himself Holy. We understand that to mean that Moshe and Aharon were HOPING to be worthy of increasing Hashem’s glory. They were eager to be “punished” so they could be medium for Hashem’s kavod. They were Michubodai – ones who glorified Hashem. That was their only ambition in life. (Remember Rabbi Akiva saying his whole life he was waiting for the chance to give up his life for Hashem.) Hashem chooses people like that to increase the world’s knowledge of His transcendence. Hashem usually does not use people who are not eager for such a big part of kavod Hashem, who love their nefesh more than they love Hashem. So, it is not only fair, it makes perfect sense. The tzadik who dies young to strengthen awareness of Hashem considers himself fortunate – he considers it tzadik vetov lo! He considers it a zechus to be elevated as a sacrifice for Hashem’s honor. We regular folk can almost consider ourselves “safe” from the “danger” of Hashem choosing us for such a mission. We don’t want it, understand it, or appreciate it. And Hashem only reveals His holiness through those who live to honor Him.
This relates to the arichas yomim question. The Rambam (Teshuva 9) explains there is no way Hashem can give reward for Mitzvos in this imperfect world. All the Torah’s positive effects for doing good in this world for doing Mitzvos are not reward. They are the means to do even more good, so you can earn even more true reward in the next world.
ג כָּל אוֹתָן הַדְּבָרִים אֱמֶת הָיוּ, וְיִהְיוּ, וּבִזְמָן שֶׁאָנוּ עוֹשִׂין כָּל מִצְווֹת הַתּוֹרָה, יַגִּיעוּ אֵלֵינוּ טוֹבוֹת הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה כֻּלָּן; וּבִזְמָן שֶׁאָנוּ עוֹבְרִין עֲלֵיהֶן, תִּקְרָא אוֹתָנוּ הָרָעוֹת הַכְּתוּבוֹת. וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן אֵין אוֹתָן הַטּוֹבוֹת, הֶן סוֹף מַתַּן שְׂכָרָן שֶׁלַּמִּצְווֹת; וְלֹא אוֹתָן הָרָעוֹת, הֶן סוֹף הַנְּקָמָה שֶׁנּוֹקְמִין מֵעוֹבֵר עַל כָּל הַמִּצְווֹת. אֵלָא כָּךְ הוּא הֶסֵּעַ הַדְּבָרִים.
ד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא נָתַן לָנוּ תּוֹרָה זוֹ, עֵץ חַיִּים, וְכָל הָעוֹשֶׂה כָּל הַכָּתוּב בָּהּ, וְיוֹדְעוֹ דֵּעָה גְּמוּרָה נְכוֹנָה--זוֹכֶה בָּהּ לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא; וּלְפִי גֹּדֶל מַעֲשָׂיו וְגֹדֶל חָכְמָתוֹ, הוּא זוֹכֶה. וְהִבְטִיחָנוּ בַּתּוֹרָה שְׁאִם נַעֲשֶׂה אוֹתָהּ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְטוֹבַת נֶפֶשׁ, וְנֶהְגֶּה בְּחָכְמָתָהּ תָּמִיד--שֶׁיָּסִיר מִמֶּנּוּ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הַמּוֹנְעִים אוֹתָנוּ מִלַּעֲשׂוֹתָהּ, כְּגוֹן חֹלִי וּמִלְחָמָה וְרָעָב וְכַיּוֹצֶא בָּהֶן. וְיַשְׁפִּיעַ לָנוּ כָּל הַטּוֹבוֹת הַמְּחַזְּקִים אֶת יָדֵינוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, כְּגוֹן שֹׂבַע וְשָׁלוֹם וּרְבוֹת כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב--כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא נַעְסֹק כָּל יָמֵינוּ בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁהַגּוּף צָרִיךְ לָהֶן, אֵלָא נֵשֵׁב פְּנוּיִים לִלְמֹד בְּחָכְמָה, וְלַעֲשׂוֹת הַמִּצְוָה, כְּדֵי שֶׁנִּזְכֶּה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר בַּתּוֹרָה אַחַר שֶׁהִבְטִיחַ בְּטוֹבוֹת הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, "וּצְדָקָה, תִּהְיֶה-לָּנוּ . . ." (דברים ו,כה).
ה וְכֵן הוֹדִיעָנוּ בַּתּוֹרָה שְׁאִם נַעֲזֹב הַתּוֹרָה מִדַּעְתֵּנוּ וְנַעְסֹק בְּהַבְלֵי הַזְּמָן, כְּעִנְיַן שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "וַיִּשְׁמַן יְשֻׁרוּן וַיִּבְעָט" (דברים לב,טו)--שֶׁדַּיָּן הָאֱמֶת יָסִיר מִן הָעוֹזְבִים כָּל טוֹבוֹת הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, שְׁהֶן חִזְּקוּ יְדֵיהֶם לִבְעֹט, וּמֵבִיא עֲלֵיהֶן כָּל הָרָעוֹת הַמּוֹנְעִים אוֹתָן מִלִּקְנוֹת הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, כְּדֵי שֶׁיֹּאבְדוּ בְּרִשְׁעָם. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה, "וְעָבַדְתָּ אֶת-אֹיְבֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר יְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ ה' בָּךְ" (דברים כח,מח), "תַּחַת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-עָבַדְתָּ אֶת-ה'" (דברים כח,מז).
ו נִמְצָא פֵּרוּשׁ כָּל אוֹתָן הַבְּרָכוֹת וְהַקְּלָלוֹת, עַל דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ: כְּלוֹמַר אִם עֲבַדְתֶּם אֶת ה' בְּשִׂמְחָה, וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם דַּרְכּוֹ--מַשְׁפִּיעַ לָכֶם הַבְּרָכוֹת הָאֵלּוּ וּמַרְחִיק הַקְּלָלוֹת, עַד שֶׁתִּהְיוּ פְּנוּיִים לְהִתְחַכַּם בַּתּוֹרָה וְלַעְסֹק בָּהּ, כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּזְכּוּ לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, וְיִיטַב לָךְ לָעוֹלָם שֶׁכֻּלּוֹ טוֹב וְתַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים לָעוֹלָם שֶׁכֻּלּוֹ אָרוּךְ. וְנִמְצֵאתֶם זוֹכִין לִשְׁנֵי הָעוֹלָמוֹת, לְחַיִּים טוֹבִים בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַמְּבִיאִין לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא: שְׁאִם לֹא יִקְנֶה הֵנָּה חָכְמָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים--אֵין לוֹ בַּמֶּה יִזְכֶּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "כִּי אֵין מַעֲשֶׂה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן, וְדַעַת וְחָכְמָה, בִּשְׁאוֹל . . ." (קוהלת ט,י).
ז וְאִם עֲזַבְתֶּם אֶת ה' וּשְׁגִיתֶם בְּמַאֲכָל וּמַשְׁקֶה וּזְנוּת וְדוֹמֶה לָהֶם--מֵבִיא עֲלֵיכֶם כָּל הַקְּלָלוֹת הָאֵלּוּ וּמֵסִיר כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת, עַד שֶׁיִּכְלוּ יְמֵיכֶם בְּבֶהָלָה וּפַחַד, וְלֹא יִהְיֶה לָכֶם לֵב פָּנוּי וְלֹא גּוּף שָׁלֵם לַעֲשׂוֹת הַמִּצְווֹת, כְּדֵי שֶׁתֹּאבְדוּ מֵחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְנִמְצָא שֶׁאִבַּדְתֶּם שְׁנֵי עוֹלָמוֹת: שֶׁבִּזְמָן שֶׁאָדָם טָרוּד בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה בְּחֹלִי וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּרְעָבוֹן, אֵינוּ מִתְעַסֵּק לֹא בְּחָכְמָה וְלֹא בְּמִצְוָה שֶׁבָּהֶן זוֹכִין לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא.
Whenever we fulfill the commandments of the Torah, we will receive all good earthly matters. Whenever we violate them, all the mentioned evils will happen to us. Nevertheless, the goodness is not all the reward for fulfilling commandments consists of, and the evils are not the entire punishment received by sinners.
This is how Hashem decides all matters: HKB”H, gave us this Torah, which is a support of life. Anybody who does what He wrote in it and knows everything in it is complete and correct will merit life in the World to Come. He will merit [a portion] according to the goodness of his actions and to the extent of his knowledge. The Torah assures us that if we fulfill the Torah with joy and pleasure and always act according to it, then illness, war, famine, etcetera, which could prevent us from doing so, will go away. Plenty, peace, richness, et cetera, which will aid us in fulfilling the Torah will come our way. This way, we will not have to occupy ourselves all day in [getting] bodily needs. We will be free to learn and gather knowledge and fulfill commandments to merit life in the World to Come. As the Torah says after it promises goodness in this world, "And it will be an opportunity for us, if we are careful to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us".
The Torah also tells us that if someone willingly neglects the Torah to chase valueless activities...the True Judge removes all the goodness of this world that they had but used to reject Hashem. He will bring on them all the evils that will prevent them from getting life in the World to Come, so they will be lost in their wickedness...
Hashem fulfills all the blessings and curses in this manner. If one serves God with joy and follows His ways, he will get that much blessing. Hashem will remove all the curses from him so he will be free to become knowledgeable in Torah and busy himself in it. This way, he will merit life in the World to Come. If one does not gain wisdom and if one has no meritorious deeds, then with what will one merit life in the World To Come?! ...
If one ignores God and offends through food, feasting, adultery, or similar activities, he will get all these curses and remove all the blessings. His days will end in panic and fear. He will not have the opportunities or perfect body to perform mitzvos, and he will not merit life in the World to Come. Then he will have missed two worlds. When someone is troubled in this world by illness, plague or hunger he does not busy himself with learning or mitzvos, which he could use to merit life in the World to Come.
We see now that arichas yomim is not a reward for serving Hashem. Hashem gives arichas yomim to people who use their days wisely, so they will have more days to use wisely! Occasionally a person can gain more by not living long. Sometimes, when a good person dies young, he or she can do more tikkunolam through dying than they could have done had they lived 120 years. Think about Rav Shimshon Pincus. When he was alive he was unknown. It is unlikely he would have had such enormous impact if he were still alive. A person whose purpose in life is to perfect the world looks forward to the opportunity to increase his kvod shomayim leverage exponentially. Hashem offers the opportunity to such a person.