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It says that (in general) Hashem lets a righteous person suffer in this world to cleanse him from sins (so he will have no more sins in the World to Come), while Hashem lets a wicked person prosper in this world so that he will get all his reward here and will suffer in Gehenom.

I have two questions on this:

  1. Let's say there is a standard unit of pain. So in this world, one can only have, say, 5 pains a day while in Gehenom one can suffer 5 million pains a day. Moreover, let's say that a sin is punishable by (say) 5 pains. One does one sin, he gets 5 pains, two sins - 10 etc.

    Even if one can't have a sin->pain ratio, as a lot has to do with intent, the idea is there.

    Now, if someone sins a million sins, he deserves, say 5 million pains. Why is there a difference if he gets this pain down here or in the world to come?

    The only difference should be the time Moreover, even if you can say "a million pains at once is harder to deal with than one", that should be taken into account when calculating the punishment.

  2. Moreover, if Gehenom is in reality qualitatively harsher, then it seems not fair that a wicked person should have to suffer more than a Tzaddik would for the same act.

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It's not necessarily the case that the pleasures and pains of this world bear any numerical ratio to those of the next one. Ramban (introduction to Iyov) in fact says that a lifetime of suffering like that of Iyov is better for a person than any time in Gehinnom, and conversely (he says on the next page) that a lifetime of enjoyment like that of Shlomo isn't comparable to the smallest amount of pleasure in Hashem's presence in Gan Eden. In other words, they are two completely different scales of measurement. –  Alex May 18 '12 at 20:07
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Please replace "it" at the beginning of this question with an actual attribution. –  Isaac Moses May 18 '12 at 20:35
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@Alex, your answer reminds me of a philosophy class I once heard about differences between Rambam & Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas would say that my intelligence and G-d's, or my strength and G-d's are on a single scale, but G-d is so far past me I can't understand where He is. Rambam would say that G-d is in no way on the same scale as people for any attribute. –  Ze'ev Felsen Sep 7 '12 at 18:36
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Read Iggeres Hateshuva by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi - A thorough analysis of Teshuvah is presented eloquently and systematically. chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7934/jewish/… –  shnozolla Aug 13 '13 at 1:45

3 Answers 3

You are forgetting that the concept of "time" doesn't pertain to the spiritual world. I do know that it says a rasha doesn't stay in gehinnom longer than 12 months. However, in Bava Basra 74a it relates a story about the amora R' Nachman. He was walking in the desert, and an arab showed him a crack in the ground where Korach was swallowed up, and when he put his ear to the ground he heard them say "Moshe is true and his Torah is true, and we are liars". So why was Korach still burning up many years after he died? Whatever time may mean in the spiritual world, we know it is something we can’t relate to. The Torah speaks on our terms. We don’t know what spiritual pain is. We don’t know how God calculates punishment. One must know what he doesn’t know. However, there is something that I understand about God’s ways of rewarding and punishing that I think may help you. God is not human. He does not feel pain, as He is perfect and can have no deficiencies. God does not feel angry or sad or depressed or happy. When the Torah refers to God’s middos, it means that God is acting with those middos, he is taking the course of action that a human being would take in the case that a human being would be feeling that midda. More simply, if I were upset at someone, I would punish him. When God is “upset”, he would use the midda of “upset” and takes a retaliatory course of action. I think that even more than that, reward and punishment are perhaps what we would call a consequence. Just as the consequence for dropping a glass on concrete is a smashed glass, the consequence for doing an aveira is punishment. God mercifully delays punishment and pushes it off with chesed and rachamim in hopes that the human will do teshuva, but once someone dies he has no option to do teshuva. (That may be a partial answer to why getting punished in this world is “a better deal”. God may lessen a punishment to give the recipient the ability to perform better in another area at that time.) If getting punished is a self directed consequence, God’s involvement would be only to “lessen” the punishment. A rasha doesn’t deserve extra “lessening”.

On another note, I have another idea as to what reward and punishment in the next world are. In spirituality, there is no space. There is no near or far. So what do we mean when we say “closer to God”? Close in a spiritual sense means more relatable, or more similar. When someone correctly uses the middos that God uses, such as kind and mercy, he becomes more similar, or “closer”, to God. When someone uses middos that are the opposite of God’s way, such as evil or destructive, he becomes less similar, or “further”, from God. The gan eden and gehinnom that we refer to in the next world may be the neshamas experience of being closer or further from God. That’s a direct consequence of your actions in this world. The pain or regret the neshama feels of being further from God is not “punishment” and “reward”. It is a direct consequence of your actions. Keep in mind that the next world is forever. If you’re far from God in some way, it’s for eternity. Time doesn’t pass or stay put. It is simply unconstrained by the concept of time as we are. And you can’t fix it. So you’re stuck with your deficiency forever. That is something you directly did yourself, and God will not change consequence. That’s how God runs this world. He has rules. (I’m not claiming to know the slightest amount about how God runs this world. I am only relating a perception.) Perhaps also when one gets punished in this world, he changes himself, his neshama, and therefore a miniscule amount of pain on this world can cause an enormous change in his neshama that translates into a closeness to God.

I’m sorry for the lack of sources. This is a view that I formed throughout life, and I don’t know much knowledge about anything. But this idea seems to concur with the hashkafa I’ve learnt, and it reverberates strongly within me. I don’t claim to know anything, I just wish to share my feelings.

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the shaar bitachon ch.4 says that the reward of olam haba is purely a kindness of God. on his own merits no man deserves it due to receiving so much benefits from God in this world. Here's an excerpt.

The reason for this, is that even if a man's good deeds are numerous like the sand of the seashore, it would not weigh enough to cover even one favor the Creator had bestowed on him in this world. All the more so, if he has committed any sins, because if the Creator will hold a man strictly to account for his obligation of gratitude, all of his good deeds would be cancelled and wiped out by even the smallest favor the Creator has done for him, and that which the Creator owes him will not amount to anything. Hence, that which the Creator rewards a person for his good deeds is to be regarded as a Divine grace to him.

God can therefore choose who to bestow this kindness to since no one really deserves it anyways.

Perhaps we can say similarly for gehinom. Every sin deserves gehinom. If one pleases God, then God can choose to bestow special kindnesses on him and spare him from gehinom.

not fair - maybe. but we can't say it's unjust.

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In addition to doing mitzvos, people also have a special mission. E.g. the samson's mission was to kick Philistine butt.

Perhaps giving people the full amount of pains they deserve will interfere with their ability to fulfill this special mission in life.

This situation is more common for wicked people so they tend to need "after hours" punishment more than righteous people would.

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