The Zohar explains that the righteous sometimes die before their time (and suffer seemingly unfairly that way) because they’re negatively affected by the sins and sinners of their generation, or so as to not sin themselves one way or another at a later point. And the wrongful sometimes succeed either because God knows that they’ll eventually repent and become righteous, because they’ll eventually have righteous descendants, or because they’ll do (or will have done) a momentous mitzvah that deserved so great a reward (Zohar 2, p. 10b).
And Ari explains it in terms of one’s actions in this life as opposed to those in past ones. If one is indeed righteous here and now and yet suffers it’s because he hadn’t yet rectified the sins he’d committed in his past lives (Sha’ar HaGilgulim 36).
(c) 2014 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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