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"The Way of G-d"

Part 2: “Divine Providence”, Chapter 2: “Mankind in this world”

Paragraph 3

The freedom we all have to opt for either righteousness or wrongdoing is the arena in which we directly interact with G-d. After all, it’s He who decides what we’re to look like when we’re born, the country and families we’re to be born into, the circumstances we’re to live in the rest of our lives, etc. But it’s we who decide how to react to those givens. We control the inner content of our beings. And we decide what we’ll accept and what reject, how high to strive or how low. And G-d reacts to that in turn.

Yet as we said, while many of us opt for untoward reactions to our G-d-given circumstances and do wrong, others decide to take self in hand, grow larger and larger in their beings, and to do good. Members of the latter group will constitute what Ramchal refers to as the “Perfected Community” in The World to Come.

But is it only the utterly righteous who enter the World to Come? And is it only the utterly wicked who never do? What about the rest of us who are somewhere in between?

The answer to this question touches upon an ancient point of contention that still irks at many people: why the good oftentimes suffer and the wrongful prosper. I’d expect truly righteous people to be blessed and to enjoy life’s bounties as much as I’d expect wrongdoers to suffer right out in the open. After all, isn’t G-d just? And wouldn’t that be the fairest of all circumstances?

The answer comes to this. The truth be known, none of us is monolithic. Each one of us has his or her good and bad side. And there’s not a thing we do that isn’t a veritable cacophony of good and bad intentions and acts at the same time.

Who among us, for example, hasn’t donated to charity to impress others? The charity has been helped, but we’re still the mean and self-centered person we were when we started. And who hasn’t been insensitive to others only meaning to help them on some level? We genuinely hurt their feelings, but they had the wherewithal to rise above our pettiness and learn a life-lesson.

So it’s never quite right of anyone to claim to be wholly righteous or wrongful. Yet still and all, many of us are mostly selfless and good, with a touch or two of self-serving badness; while others of us are mostly bad, and somewhat good.

We’re thus taught that those of us who are mostly good will indeed have a share in the World to Come. But because Divine justice will always prevail, the bad things those mostly good people had done will be dealt with in the here and now. Which is to say, that they’ll suffer the consequences of the bad they’d done in their lifetimes (by being ill, perhaps; or poor, vexed, pursued, and on and on. But make no mistake about it-- pain and suffering can be very, very subtle and abstruse; things are very often not what they appear to be).

These (mostly) righteous people will indeed suffer-- but not for no good reason. For by suffering as they do they’d have “paid their dues” right here, in life. And they’d thus have undone anything that would have deterred their enjoying the World to Come, where they’ll bask in G-d’s Presence forever.

And conversely, the (mostly) wrongful people will indeed oftentimes prosper-- but also not for no good reason. Their good fortune in life will serve as their recompense for the relatively few good things they’d done. But they’ll never enter the World to Come. Come en mass.

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