Death & Suffering without Sin?

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: Shabbos 55a it says, “There is no death without sin and no suffering without transgression.” If so, how can people like babies die if they have not sinned nor have any understanding of sin? Thank You, have a Good Day,

Moshe, New York

Rabbi: Although Rav Ami said, “There is no death without sin and no suffering without transgression,” that talmudic section concludes on 55b that there is in fact death and affliction without sin. 

 “But as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for on the day you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen. 2:17). 

Initially, Adam would have lived forever. With this verse, God teaches that when man disobeys God due to his attachment to the physical and his denial of that which is harmful (the fruit), he must become mortal. Mortality tells man that his stay on Earth is temporary. This helps man detach from the physical, for life ultimately comes to an end; mortality corrects Adam’s sin of his attachment to the physical. 

Death for mankind occurs due to the demonstration that the most perfect human—Adam—required death to correct his nature. Therefore, even if we do not sin, we still must die as even the greatest man required death as a corrective measure cover his very nature. We certainly require this adjustment. Thus, everyone dies, with or without our own sins. 

Infants who die prematurely can be due to a mother’s activities, such as poor health habits or drug use. But even healthy mothers may have stillborns. But God is just and knows how to treat that infant’s soul. There are many consideration of which we are unaware. God killed Abraham and Chanoch before their time to spare them from evil. Rashi says about Chanoch (Gen. 5:24) “He was a righteous man, but his mind was easily induced to turn from his righteous ways and to become wicked. The Holy One, blessed be He, therefore took him away quickly and made him die before his full time…”  

Death must occur to everyone. God deems this best for man’s perfection. When we see those who appear as undeserving die early, like infants and righteous people, we must know God manages all, and that He is just. We also cannot be certain that one who we assume to be righteous is without sin.