What is Judaism's view on illnesses? Is the point to punish the person who gets sick, as found with Chizkiyahu, who didn't listen to God about getting married (and I think Yeshayahu rebuked him and said - bhadai kivshei rachmana, lama lach?) and therefore was punished? Or are there other reasons why God would make someone sick? If anyone has sources on this, that would be much appreciated.

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/23067
    – Fred
    May 23, 2014 at 2:35
  • I'm not necessarily talking about mentally ill, handicaps etc. Just illness in general, like if someone has the flu or pneumonia. I guess you can extend the question to "why bad things happen to good people" when asking about illness such as cancer, so maybe that question does include my question. Hope this clarifies the now dual purpose of the question: a. purpose of general illness (and sources) and b. why bad things happen to good people sources. Thanks! May 23, 2014 at 3:36
  • For one talmudic source, see K'suvos (30a): "Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for chills and fevers." Rashi indicates that this refers to the fact that people often bring these kinds of illnesses upon themselves through negligence, and Tosafos comment that this refers to avoidable illnesses. | Regarding why bad things happen to good people: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/863
    – Fred
    May 23, 2014 at 3:54
  • Thanks for the gemara. Just to clarify, though, if a non-frum person who just recieved a diagnosis of cancer asked you what the purpose of illness is (and you have around 60 seconds or less to answer), how would you say Judaism's view, al regel achas? May 23, 2014 at 3:58
  • 1
    In the absence of prophecy, we can't know the definitive reason for why HaShem imposes suffering in any given instance, just as we can't presume to fathom His inscrutable reasons for anything (see Y'sha'yahu 55:9). However, Chazal provided guidance for our response to suffering: we should use it as an opportunity for introspection and spiritual improvement (B'rachos 5a). And even if we are undeserving of punishment, we must recognize that HaShem loves us immensely and is acting for our ultimate benefit (ibid.).
    – Fred
    May 23, 2014 at 4:20

1 Answer 1


here's a source from the shaar bechina ch.5 of chovos halevavos regarding why children get sick. according to the marpe lenefesh commentary it also applies to adults too.

Later on he is subjected to illnesses and meets with painful incidents so that he recognizes the world, and that its nature is not concealed from him. Thus he is put on his guard against trusting in this world thereby permitting his lusts to rule over him, in which case he would become like the animals that neither think nor understand; as it is written "Be ye not as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding" (Tehilim 32:9).

commentaries there:

(Tov Halevanon: "illnesses" - such as chicken pox and measles. "painful incidents" - many weaknesses come in the boyhood years. PL - accidents such as stepping on a metal nail. "Be ye not as the horse or as the mule" - they need to be leashed and muzzled, so too man. The painful incidents humble his lusts. "so that he recognizes the world" - how a person's situation can change swiftly from contentment to pain so that he realizes not to trust in it and its tranquility - rather to always be afraid and to seek refuge in G-d's shadow.

Marpe Lenefesh: If a human being had only constant good in this world, he would forget and not recall the matters of his final end, and he would trust (hope) in this world and follow the musings of his heart and his lusts for all of his days. Therefore, it was among the divine plan to send him sometimes bad illnesses, EVEN during his youth in order that he recognize and know that there is no complete good in this world. And even if he is in a very good situation, the bad illnesses can come and ruin his joy, so that he won't trust in this world.)

emphasis on the word "even" is mine

while there may be other reasons for specific cases, I think this is the most common one.

  • +1, great answer....another thought (source needed) is that an illness will often give someone tools to deal with other parts of life in a better way...I know a kid who had a childhood illness, and that forced him to take responsibility for a lot of things at an early age, and that made him a much more responsible adult....all part of a big Plan, a bigger picture
    – MTL
    May 23, 2014 at 14:24
  • @Shokhet we can see this from life experience, both from observing others and on a personal level.
    – ray
    May 24, 2014 at 18:43

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