I've heard many times from Rabbis and Morims that every suffering we have in life is the consequence of something bad we've done. And for babies that suffer at birth and righteous people that seem to suffer for no reason, are actually receiving the consequences of Averot in their past lives. Ok, this seems to answer the reason for any suffering in the world.

But if that's so, then why did Hevel suffer? He was killed by his brother with a stone to the head; he didn't just suffer, he lived a short life and had no descent. To my knowledge he did nothing wrong, in fact he was very righteous. And he couldn't possibly be a reincarnation, there just weren't any deaths before him.

  • 1
    You made an assumption when you wrote "To my knowledge he did nothing wrong, in fact he was very righteous" - do you have a source for these 2 statements? Oct 18, 2015 at 9:11
  • because he "drank in" (i.e. enjoyed) G-d's presence when G-d accepted his sacrifice. Moshe Rabeinu was his Gilgul, and rectified this when he averted his gaze from the burning bush.
    – Menachem
    Oct 18, 2015 at 10:20
  • It's in the name
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Oct 23, 2022 at 2:18

3 Answers 3


R. Abraham Vitirbo raises a variation of this question at the end of the Fifth Essay of Sefer Emunat Chachamim. He mentions that many people are confused because the Mishnah (Avot 2:6) states that Hillel saw a skull floating in the water and said "you were killed because you killed". These people thus wonder why Hevel was killed if he never killed anyone.

R. Abraham first quotes an explanation from the kabbalists, who say that Hevel "cut the shoots" like Ben Zoma (see Chagigah 14b) and he looked and he died.1 R. Abraham then says that the kabbalists might be correct but he knows not of kabbalah, nor did his teachers. Instead he suggests that the Mishnah does not mean that anyone who gets killed must have killed; rather, it just means that anyone who kills will get killed, and it is also possible for other people to coincidentally get killed.

While this approach deals with the fact that Hevel was killed, it doesn't really address whether he did anything wrong to begin with. It's possible that R. Abraham is suggesting that Hevel was indeed killed for no reason, or it could be that he did something else wrong (not killing) and for that he was punished by being killed.

Ralbag in his commentary to Genesis Chapter Four writes that it is possible Hevel glorified himself over Cain for having attained a greater craft:

ואפשר שכבר התפאר בזה הענין הבל ואם לא סופר בתורה

While he doesn't specifically say that Hevel deserved to be killed because of this, perhaps this is "something wrong" that Hevel did.

1. This is not entirely clear because in the actual passage in Chagigah these are three different people — Acher who cut the shoots, Ben Azzai who looked and died, and Ben Zoma who looked and lost his mind:

Our Rabbis taught: Four men entered the ‘Garden’, namely, Ben ‘Azzai and Ben Zoma, Aher, and R. Akiba. R. Akiba said to them: When ye arrive at the stones of pure marble, say not, water, water! For it is said: He that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before mine eyes. Ben ‘Azzai cast a look and died. Of him Scripture says: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Ben Zoma looked and became demented. Of him Scripture says: Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. Aher mutilated the shoots. R. Akiba departed unhurt. (Soncino translation)


It's brought from the Arizal (Shaar Gilgulim) and Tikunei Zohar (The midrash says brings it down), that Hevel was obligated to death, because when Hashem accepted his offering, he looked into the shechina. Looking into the shechina is a chiyuv misa, as it brought in midrashim..

  • Please can you provide an exact source?
    – Dov
    Oct 22, 2022 at 18:52

I have heard in the name of R' Yaakov Weinberg z"l, something like this: Hevel was not an "עובד", a servant [to G-d]. According to the verse (וְהֶ֨בֶל הֵבִ֥יא גַם־ה֛וּא - Hevel also brought), he did not think to bring a korbon until his brother Kayin did it first (see Seforno). That's not a sin, exactly, but it was a lack of elevation that meant that he did not merit divine protection against his brother.

  • 1
    I heard that from Reb Mishe Feinstien ztl.
    – Shlomy
    Oct 21, 2022 at 20:59
  • @Shlomy Thank you. Is it published? I just added a Seforno I saw that says part of the idea.
    – MichoelR
    Oct 22, 2022 at 23:55

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