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I'd like to follow up on Joseph telling his brothers: Don’t worry and don’t feel guilty about selling me in Egypt: It was all God’s plan. [Genesis 45:4-8, 50:19-21]

The Talmud teaches that everything that happens ultimately serves God's purpose, even the most terrible calamities. Naḥum ish Gamzu always said Gam zu l'tovah! -- “This, too, is for the good!”, in spite of the many tragedies that befell him in his life. His student Rabbi Akiva followed in his footsteps and used to say: כׇּל דְּעָבֵיד רַחֲמָנָא לְטָב עָבֵיד -- Everything God does is for the good. [Berakhot 60b]

But life is a collection of happy events and sad events, good things and bad things. Some good things are bound to happen, sooner or later. When they happen, how hard is it to trace the chain of events that led to them and say: “Aha! If this bad thing hadn't happened in the past, this good thing would not have happened today!”?

It also works in reverse. How hard is it to single out a bad thing that happened to us, trace the chain of events that led to it, and find a good thing to blame for it. (Example: If I had not met that wonderful girl last week, I would not have been in such a hurry to go see her today, and would not have had this terrible car accident.)

Do the Sources discuss the point that this is a two-way street? Or shall we say it's all purely a matter of faith, and not a logical conclusion from life's experiences?

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    I don't understand the question. I.e. what is the question?
    – pcoz
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 21:49
  • I’m inclined to agree with pcoz. You seem to be asking two different questions. The first being is there anything apart and “other” than G-d (and His overall plan for His creation). Your second question seems to revolve around cause and effect (סדר השתלשלות), what you describe as “a two way street”. It is one element of G-d’s plan or system according to Jewish teaching. Please clarify Maurice. Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 12:18
  • My question is: Given it can always be argued that a certain good thing could not have happened if a certain bad thing had not preceded it, and vice-versa, why does the Talmud seem to give us only the first half? Is it faith or logical argument? Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 17:22
  • I think this question could be clarified vis a vis other questions regarding free will generally.
    – bondonk
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 9:10
  • Rabbi Kaii's answer below is the complete answer, but for a discussion of the "two way street", Shaar Habitachon talks a lot about how a seemingly good thing can be a curse. It's all over the book, but I'll point you to a chapter that references the story of Nachum Ish Gam Zu and also shows how the seeming goodness with which G-d "rewards" lawless people is actually a curse. chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5478237/jewish/… Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 5:42

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The Chassidic explanation for this is very lucid, and helps us understand the sources. See Tanya Igeret Hakodesh 11 for example.

  • Good = meant to happen.
  • Bad = not meant to happen.

This is because there is only one God, who is the cause and source of everything that happens (Yishayahu 45:5-7), the power of powers (see Ramban on Bereshit 1:1), and He is a purposeful, good God:

טוב־ה' לכל ורחמיו על־כל־מעשיו

Hashem is good to all: and his mercies are over all His creations. (Tehillim 145:9)

צדיק ה' בכל־דרכיו וחסיד בכל־מעשיו

Hashem is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds. (ibid 17)

So we conclude that

  1. Everything that happens is meant to be.
  2. Everything that happens is therefore good.

Therefore affliction and suffering are not "bad", they are just difficult. Another way to put it is that there is some good that is "sweet" and some that is "bitter", and therefore we pray for a good, sweet new year.

Why is some goodness bitter? Sin:

מִפְּנֵי חֲטָאֵינוּ גָּלִינוּ מֵאַרְצֵנוּ

We were exiled from our land because of our sins

Be'er Mayim Chaim Shemot 10:1 writes:

כי הנה כאשר הקב"ה שולח יסורין וצער על האדם, והאדם נותן דעתו ולבו להשגיח על מה אירע לו כך והלא אין דבר בעולם שיעשה מעצמו והכל נגזר מן השמים... ואם כן על מה עשה ה' ככה לשלוח עלי יסורין האלה לצערני והלא טוב ה' לכל ורחמיו על כל מעשיו אם לא שרצונו אשר על ידי יסורין האלה אזכור בבוראי יוצרי שאשוב לפניו בתשובה שלימה ולחזור לתורתו ומצוותיו לעבדו בלבב שלם

ונמצא כאשר שם האדם זאת על לבו... ושש ושמח בראותו הטובה הגדולה שעשה לו אלהים להשגיח עליו ולפקח על עניניו... ולקרבו אצלו כחיבת אב על בנו, וכמאמר הכתוב (משלי ג', י"ב) כי את אשר יאהב ה' יוכיח ואומר (תהלים צ"ד, י"ב) אשרי הגבר אשר תיסרנו יה. הנה ודאי אשר זה המכה היא לו רפואה שלימה וטובה גדולה וחסד גדול מאת ה' לרפאותו רפואת הנפש להיטיבו באחריתו

When Hashem sends suffering and pain to a person, and the person notices and thinks about why this has happened to them, knowing that nothing in the world happens by itself, and all is decreed from Heaven... [He will ask] why did Hashem do this to me, sending these difficulties to make me suffer? Is Hashem not "good to all, and His mercies are over all His creations"? It must be that His will is through these sufferings I will remember my Creator, and repent before Him with a full teshuva, and return to His Torah and His mitzvot and serve Him with all my heart.

When a person takes this to heart... they will be happy recognising the great good that Hashem did for them, and the fact that He is looking after them and being concerned with their affairs... bringing them close to Him with the love of a parent for a child. As it is written "For the one whom Hashem loves, He reproves" (Mishlei 3:12); and it says: "Fortunate is the person whom Hashem afflicts" (Tehillim 94:12). This blow is a great kindness and healing from Hashem, healing the person's soul and assuring their ultimate good.

There is also the concept of testing and refining. Not only does that allow us to gain reward for actions rather than merely the potential/thought/character, but it also improves our potential/thought/character (see Ramban and Ran on Bereshit 22:1)

Note how this modifies our understanding of typical examples: "he didn't board the plane because he forgot his tefillin, and therefore survived 9/11". They are not meant to imply that if he had gotten on the plane, ch'v, that would have been "not meant to be"; bad. If we conclude that, we've missed the entire lesson. The small suffering of missing a flight, the large suffering of losing one's life tragically, are both the same: they are meant to be and for the ultimate good. There's no two way street because there is only one way!

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No it isn't we infer from the popular phrase found throughout Shas

הכל בשמיים חוץ מיראת שמיים

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  • Yiras Shomayim is not about what happens to you, it's about what you do. Free will is a fundamental principle in Judaism.
    – shmosel
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 3:27
  • They had us in the first half, not gonna lie
    – Yehuda
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 14:12
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The extent to which we can understand that everything is part of Hashem's plan is proportional to the extent to which we can be masig (comprehend) the tachlis schar ve'onesh (the ultimate extent of Divine reward and punishment).

For example, let's say that I would say, "The Holocaust cannot possibly be part of Hashem's plan, because what could justify such suffering?"

This question can be transliterated as follows: Since I cannot comprehend any Good that can be greater than and achieved by the suffering of the Holocaust, hence there could have been no rationale for the Holocaust.

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    Maurice is specifically asking at the conclusion of his question if there are sources which discuss this two way street he describes. Your answer provides none and merely states your view. It may be a helpful idea but it doesn’t answer his question. Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 13:20
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    @YaacovDeane The reason I found it difficult to understand the question is because gam zu le'tovah is a fundamental Jewish belief.
    – pcoz
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 21:44
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    I understand. But the objective is to answer whatever specific question is posed by the given OP. In this case, Maurice is looking for sources that deal with his subject. If you want to improve your answer, you should go in that direction. Only blessings… Commented Dec 10, 2021 at 3:14

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