Vayeshev: Chapter 3

"For the work of a man shall He pay back to him ..."


Rabbi Chiya addresses the problem of why some righteous individuals enjoy prosperity, good health, and happiness, while others endure terrible suffering. The mystery revealed to explain this emphasizes the crucial role of mazal (lit. 'fortune, luck'). Whether sinful or righteous, all individuals shall suffer who receive their souls from the Nukva (moon) during the period when she is defective. God compensates those righteous who suffer in this world, by ensuring their merit in the World to Come; their suffering in this world is the result of their souls' misfortune. While we may endeavor to reason why there is such disparity in the fortunes of men, Kabbalah explains that a righteous soul actually chooses the moment of birth and the physical body into which it will incarnate. The righteous will often purposely choose a life of suffering in order to help correct the sins of the generation, thus preventing great judgment and destruction. This section underscores the importance of the strength of the soul of the righteous. God's judgment rests on this strength, and not on physical or material qualities.


The physical body is of the same shape and structure in all human beings. However, the internal Vessel - a man's Desire to Receive - is of different measure in each person. For example, a person endowed with a large Vessel may have the power to accumulate enormous wealth. Yet on a purely physical level, there is no distinguishing trait that hints at a wealthy man's financial capabilities and business acumen. In similar fashion, the soul of a single righteous individual may be far greater than millions of sinful people of the same generation. The suffering endured by this lone righteous individual can therefore balance all the negativity generated by the actions of others. By connecting with the souls of the righteous, whose Light shines so radiantly through this passage, we can help correct the effects of our own negative actions; moreover, our own Vessel is expanded, so that our efforts toward righteousness compensate for the sins of others.