According to Bereshit Rabbah 69:5, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov prayed for aging, suffering and sickness, and before this, these conditions did not exist in the human experience.

The reasons are given for each one, and each would be a good answer for theodical questions. Aging was introduced to give a crown of wisdom. Suffering was introduced to provide earthly atonement (rather than leaving it all for Gehinom). Sickness was introduced to provide a wake up call to teshuva (repentance) before death.

All of the arguments are used by Chazal on their own, and also in post-Talmudic works, however I have never seen the Midrash itself quoted as a theodical answer - specifically saying that "Hashem didn't initially do this, because He might have agreed that these conditions are difficult, but when we invited these conditions ourselves then He was willing to introduce them, and their benefits".

My question is, why is this argument not used, and if it is, why so rarely?

If it is used, I'd appreciate to know where, and how. I also wouldn't be opposed to people offering their own rendition of an argument based on their own learning, so long as it is sourced and not just a personal opinion (start a chat for that as I would be happy to hear it unofficially)

  • It’s not such a compelling argument. It begs the question as to why God would listen to the Avot and change Creation to introduce these concepts which I’m sure many people do not wish to experience.
    – ezra
    Commented May 14 at 10:32
  • Begging questions is what Judaism is all about. Begging questions is only bad when we presume there aren't good answers. But I hear @ezra
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 14 at 10:46

1 Answer 1


I seem to remember this being at least part of subject of a book by Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel Steinsaltz, A”H, called, “The Long Shorter Way”.

I can’t recall if he actually quoted the source you are mentioning, but it was the contrast between “The short, long way”, which was a very brief period until the final redemption combined with the actual, intense spiritual fires of Gehinom, etc. and what Avraham requested, which was “The long, shorter way”, a very long exile with the hardships and suffering of this world softened by comparison.

I seem to recall some mention about the introduction of aging with Avraham because he was indistinguishable from his son, Yitzchok.

If you haven’t read it, it’s a wonderful read in English.

Regarding the introduction of sickness, this follows the commentary of Hezekiah ben Manoach, Chizkuni to Bereshit 48:1 which says that sickness was introduced at the request of Yaacov Avinu to be able to prepare for his death.

Borrowing from the concept discussed by Steinsaltz, this is actually one of the fundamental processes that the Creator of us all implanted within the universe. You can think of it in the context of an idea borrowed from High School or first year College chemistry, namely Stoichiometric equations.

Stoichiometry is founded on the law of conservation of mass (For any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as the system's mass cannot change, so the quantity can neither be added nor be removed. Therefore, the quantity of mass is conserved over time.) where the total mass of the reactants equals the total mass of the products.

Everything is always in perfect balance. The only variation relates to the rate of the reaction and in which direction it goes, toward products or reactants. The rate and direction can be changed by introducing energy or catalysts (catalysts are independent of and not part of the actual reaction).

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    Sounds great, would appreciate if you could at some point go back to it so you can bolster this answer with a more clear explanation. I will likely get the book anyway, I just don't know when I will have time to read it
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 14 at 10:48
  • אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בַּר סִימוֹן אַבְרָהָם תָּבַע זִקְנָה, אָמַר לְפָנָיו רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים אָדָם וּבְנוֹ נִכְנָסִין לְמָקוֹם וְאֵין אָדָם יוֹדֵעַ לְמִי מְכַבֵּד, מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁאַתָּה מְעַטְּרוֹ בְּזִקְנָה אָדָם יוֹדֵעַ לְמִי מְכַבֵּד. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חַיֶּיךָ דָּבָר טוֹב תָּבַעְתָּ וּמִמְּךָ הוּא מַתְחִיל
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 14 at 11:03
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    It is an interesting choice of words in the expression, "מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁאַתָּה מְעַטְּרוֹ בְּזִקְנָה". Why wouldn't you choose the shorter expression, "מתוך שאתה מבוגר יותר כו׳"? And in that context, see Yoma 69b which also seems to allude to the Avot together with the concept of the coming of Moshiach. Commented May 14 at 13:21

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