Why do bad things happen to good people?
Since antiquity, philosophers have toiled to answer the question of why good people suffer. I read the novel "Creation" by Gore Vidal but did not find any satisfying answer by the two philosophers, Confucius or the Buddha. Though well-intended, there are, to them, two possibilities. Either (1) G-d is not all-good or all-powerful or (2) karma dictates that people should suffer as explained in reincarnation. Both explanations are not satisfactory. I take a third approach. As Rambam pointed out, there are three things that cause suffering (evil). I think Maimonides answered this well.
Since G-d is good, He doe not emit evil. Evil is the result of three things, (1) people harm themselves when stepping in front of a red light or (2) people harm others as when one nation decides to dominate over another or (3) natural law, although good for the world at a whole as when a hurricane cleans the earth may harm people residing near the proximity.
What is sin?
The biblical portion of Behar warns the Israelites to observe G-d’s commands. If they do they are promised property and will “dwell securely on the land” (Leviticus 25:18).
Sin is a transgression of the divine commandment. Though there is two ways to understand sin. The emotional adherents carry unresolved guilt while the rationalist improves. They avoid the destructive sense of guilt and direct their emotions to constructive thought. Surprising as this may sound, “sin” is actually not in the Hebrew Bible. The word is chet, and it means “to miss the mark.” One can imagine an archer releasing his shaft and shooting an arrow, realizing that he missed his target. What do you do when you miss your target? Do you beat your chest, weep devastatingly, and create all kinds of ceremonies to “atone” for the missed shot? No. You consider why you got the disappointing results, reach into your quiver, and shoot again. This rational approach examines why one failed and asserts not to repeat the loss.
What is repentance and how does one do teshuva?
Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 2, explains that the sinner must realize their mistake, resolve not to repeat the mistake again, employ proper habits not to repeat it, and go on with their lives. This concept of chet is mind oriented. It shows how a person can perfect themselves and improve society.
Anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms
Maimonides explains that G-d does not have emotions. Thus, G-d does not get angry when you sin. As explained above, chet is a time for improvement. Why then, does the Torah describe G-d with anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms? It is because as Rabbi Ishmael explained, “The Torah speaks in the language of people.” The Bible uses figures of speech because it was composed in a way so that the ancients could grasp its teachings and understand it.
What is reward and punishment and how does it work?
The biblical portion of Eikev starts with Deuteronomy 7:12 and details what righteous Jews can expect if they act according to the commands. For example, Deuteronomy 7 promises grain, fruit, wine, oil, cattle, flocks, goats, and not infertility, illnesses or enemies. Deuteronomy 11 promises additional rain and grass for the animals to eat. It seems that Jews act righteously only to gain something back in return, namely rewards. But isn't reward and punishment a childish idea? Perhaps scripture speaks of reward and punishment as a way to stimulate proper behavior.
Mishnah Avot 1:3 certainly thinks so when it states:
“Be not like the servant who serves a master on the condition of receiving a gift; but be like the servant who serves a master not on the condition of receiving an award.”
The Mishnah Avot d’Rabbi Natan disagreed, arguing, “Is it conceivable that a laborer works all day and does not take his pay home in the evening?”
What did Maimonides think
Maimonides stood in stark constant and was opposed to the childish notion of reward and punishment. In his introduction to the tenth chapter of the talmudic tractate of Sanhedrin, Chelek, he wrote, “There are many different opinions, but these are based on differences in understanding.” He felt that when the soul departed the body, it would not enjoy eternal bliss at Garden of Eden nor would the wicked burn in the fiery flames of Gehinnom. He felt that people would not be rewarded in the time of the Messiah or “the world to come,” nor is reward doled out in the resurrection of the dead, he believed this to be spiritual. He rejected these ideas as childish, comparing them to a child who needs to be bribed by candies or an adult by money or reputation as a rabbi. As it would be ridiculous to imagine that G-d punishes fish, so to, G-d does not reward nor punishes people.
“All this,” says Maimonides, “is shameful. It is only necessary because of the immature nature of people who need bribes. They make the ultimate goal of study something other than the study itself.”
He then quotes Antigonos (who also felt that no one should expect
payment), and Midrash Sifre commentary on Deuteronomy 11:13:
“Should a person say: I will study Torah so that I will become wealthy... so that I will be called ‘rabbi,’... so that I will receive payment in the world to come. Behold, it is written: ‘to love your God.’ Everything that you do, do only out of love.”
True, the Decalogue promises a reward of a long life for the observance, but it is for the masses who need to be told how to act by morality. Rather than accept the usual approach, the Rambam felt that the "Garden of Eden" story was a parable which taught a person how to act properly. In his Commentary on the Mishnah, Shemoneh Perakim, he agreed with the Greek pagan Aristotle, that one should act accordingly and restrain themselves from excess in order to follow the middle path or, as commonly called by Maimonides, the Golden Mean. This path avoids extremes and promotes proper habits. Rambam sees the Tree of "good and evil" in the parable not as a distinction from right and wrong but from truth and falsehood. Meaning, that people should evaluate every situation, determine the best course of action, and act intelligently, not morally because morality is only a set of rules for the general public who needs to be told how to act in any given situation, but is by no means conventional.
Thus, Lev 26:3-13, Lev 26:14-45, Lev. R. 27:1, are related. They are related in which they promise little in hopes of stimulating the general public to act without promises of reward. Simply stated, a good person prefers good acts because it is the right thing to do and avoids evil because it is wrong.
Maimonides felt that people should develop their intellect to learn what is truthful. Of course, Maimonides was careful to permit the masses to believe in the immature notions if it helped them psychologically. But the ultimate reward is for those who seek the truth and study its content. Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz adored Maimonides so much so, that he repeated his teachings in almost all of his books. Indeed, the first paragraph of the shema, Deuteronomy 5:4–9, reflects this rational approach, while the second paragraph, Deuteronomy 11:13–21, promises rewards for the masses, who otherwise, would be promoted to abandon the mitzvah, G-d, and His Torah altogether.
 Genetics, disease, drugs and diet can all effect an embryo, and are scientifically proven. Reincarnation is not proven. Why imagine a reason, when science provides an explanation?