The Good Suffer?

Reader: Throughout the Torah, especially in Devarim, we are told that "if you observe the Torah" then you will be given a good life, long days/ years, peace, prosperity and health. The Torah tells us to choose life. However, observance of the Mitzvos, especially when you count the 10,000 extra d’rabbanans,  do not seem to to make people rich, successful etc. The rabbinic laws drain you of your time and wealth (one guy wrote how he cannot afford yeshiva education).  If the Torah promise all this, why do we have the perennial problem where the good seem to suffer an the bad people prosper?

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: I will paraphrase Rabbi Israel Chait:

Rules apply in general, and generally we find that one living a Torah lifestyle enjoys life. He is not concerned about expenditures to fulfill Torah or Rabbinic laws because he values the perfection he derives from them. There are exceptions of good people who endure suffering that we do not understand, but this does not deny the reality of the good lives of upright Jews. We cannot understand individual cases, that is up to God to determine if there is some consideration to withhold prosperity from a certain upright person. 

“Length of days” does not apply to longevity, but that each individual day is most fulfilling. Therefore, a person who dies at 30 years old can experience “length of days” if the quality of each one of his days was most fulfilling, and that is found in the highest degree when one studies Torah. One can be quite poor but also quite happy because his enjoyment is not wealth, but wisdom.

Another important point is that one who values the Torah finds he needs much less in life because his satisfaction is not derived from wealth and possessions like beautiful homes and beautiful cars, but from wisdom. This type of person can have very little money but feel extremely rich because he needs very little, therefore he purchases much less and retains much more of what ever wealth he has. And to him, that extra wealth makes him feel rich, even if it's only one thousand dollars. He also has much more time on his hands because he is not pursuing the accumulation of wealth and this adds to his peace of mind. So wealth cannot be measured in terms of bank accounts, but in a person’s sense of satisfaction. Someone who earns only $25,000 a year but finds all of his needs are covered is “richer” than a millionaire who is not satisfied with all he has.

At the end of his laws of Shmitta and Yovale (13:13), Maimonides explains that one who dedicates himself to a life of Torah, God will give him his needs to sustain him. It does not say God will make him a millionaire because he does not want to be a millionaire. Rather, one who values Torah and wisdom wants as much time as possible to be involved in this pursuit and only needs a roof, clothing and food.