|Ask Rabbi Simmons|
I heard here that Judaism does not accept that Satan is the "god of bad". My question is, assuming that God is good and that He created the universe and its natural laws, what is the source of the suffering and imperfections which do not arise from free will? Such as genetic diseases like Tay-Sachs, animals suffering in droughts in the jungle, people buried under land slides and avalanches, people born deformed so that they will never know what it is like for someone to be in love with them, and so on.
There are some souls
that come to the earth for what Judaism calls a "Tikun". A Tikun means
that the soul has to undergo certain experiences in order to help it maintain
a state of perfection. This could be because of different experiences that the
soul underwent in previous lifetimes. The soul achieves its tikun by being purified
through the experience and/or by helping other people grow through exposure to
In order to appreciate this concept it is crucial to understand that the world that we live in is only a small speck of a person's life. Judaism looks at life in this world as preparation for the life in the World of Souls. Many of the unexplainable features of life in this world can be better understood if we realize this concept. The pain that one must undergo at times in this world to achieve greater perfection of the soul is worth the eternal pleasure that the soul experiences after the death of the body.
Our perceptions of good and evil are directly related to our understanding of the world. An African tribesman who never saw a hypodermic syringe in his life could think upon seeing a doctor inoculate a child that the doctor was actually trying to hurt the child! Our perceptions change with information.
Therefore the Jewish approach to "suffering" is that really everything happens for the good, but since we are finite and cannot see the whole picture, we perceive some things as bad.
The Torah teaches that the true value of a person is his soul. The great 20th century sage the Chazon Ish used to stand up in respect when a person with Downs Syndrome came into the room. He explained that to have been given such limitations, the soul of this person must be very great, having come into this world to complete the process of perfection in this unique way.
I hope this helps answer.
Rabbi Shraga Simmons