The experience of pain and suffering is ubiquitous across all spectrum of human life. All of us, in some capacity, experience difficulties and challenges. Any measure of human suffering creates a dilemma for believers in a just God: How can a just God supervise over injustice? Why do bad things happen to good people? This problem has been the subject of much grappling in classical Jewish Literature for centuries. When examining and dissecting the various sources several interesting patterns emerge.
1. Menachos 29b: When Moses ascended to Heaven he found the Almighty sitting and tying crowns atop letters. Moses asked: Who is obstructing your way? God responded: There is a man who will be in the future after several generations and his name is Akiva Ben Yosef who will derive piles and piles of laws from every tick and Mark [of the letters] . [Moses] said “show him to me”. He said: Go back! He went and he sat at the end of eight rows and he did not know what they were saying and he became dejected. When Rabbi Akiva arrived at a certain matter, his students questioned from where do you know this law? He said to them “It is a Law to Moses from Sinai”, and Moses was placated. He returned and stood before the Almighty and said: “Master of the world, you a man such as this and you give the Torah via me?” He said: “Silence! So it was deemed in my mind.” [Moses] said: “Master of the world, you showed me his Torah now show me his reward.” He said: “Go back!” He went and he saw that they were flaying his skin with combs. He said [to God] “Master of the world, this is Torah and this is the reward?” God responded: “Silence! So it was deemed in my mind.”
2. Berachos 7a: And Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosi: Three things Moses asked from the Almighty and he gave him…He asked to know the ways of God and he gave him, as Scripture states (Exodus 33) “Inform me of your ways”, [Moses] said to God: “Why is there a righteous person and it is good for him; a righteous person and it is bad for him; a wicked person and it is good for him; a wicked person and it is bad for him?” So [God] responded: a righteous person and it is good for him – a completely righteous person; a righteous person and it is bad for him – a partially righteous person; a wicked person and it is good for him – a partially wicked person; a wicked person and it is bad for him – a completely wicked person.
3. Sanhedrin 101a: When Rabbi Eliezer was sick, his students came to visit him. Rabbi Eliezer said: “there is a great fury in the world”! The student began to cry and Rabbi Akiva laughed. They asked him why are you laughing? Rabbi Akiva: “Why are you crying”? They said to him: Is it possible that a Torah scroll is in pain and we will not cry”? He said to them “that is precisely why I am laughing. For all the time I saw our teacher’s wine not ferment, his flax not smitten and his oil not spoil I said perhaps God forbid our teacher received his reward in this world, and now that I see him in pain I am happy.