The Sages (Avot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 15) taught: “Rabbi Yannai says: It is not in our hands, not the serenity of the wicked not the afflictions of the righteous.” Rabbeinu Ovadia of Bartenura explains that the phrase “not in our hands” means that we cannot understand why there are wicked people who live in tranquility or why some righteous people suffer.
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (in his Anaf Etz Avot, page 292) that once the words of our Sages were revealed in the holy Zohar and other Kabbalistic works about the idea of reincarnation of the soul, this will help calm ourselves and offer a glimpse into the inner workings of the Upper Realms.
A fascinating example of this is Iyov, about whom the verse states, “And that man was perfect, straight, G-d-fearing, and abstained from evil.” Nevertheless, he was smitten with terrible suffering and afflictions. First, his children were killed in storm which caused the house to collapsed on them. Later, he lost all of his tremendous wealth and assets which was confiscated by the kingdom of Sheba and the Casdeans. After he had accepted Hashem’s judgment upon himself by exclaiming, Hashem has given and Hashem has taken; May the name of Hashem be blessed,” he was stricken with more afflictions as he was covered with boils from head to toe. Why did all this happen to him? We do not know.
However, our Sages revealed to us that Iyov was actually a reincarnation of Terach, father of Avraham Avinu, who committed idolatry and caused others to as well. In the merit of Avraham Avinu though, Terach repented, as the verse states that Hashem told Avraham, “And you shall come to your fathers in peace.” Nevertheless, since he sinned and caused the public to sin and our Sages taught (Yoma 87a) that one who does so is almost not afforded the opportunity to repent (since it is inappropriate for him to be in Gan Eden while those he cause to sin in Gehinnom), Terach needed to be incarnated into Iyov and the suffering he endured atoned for his sins.
In the introduction to his Sefer Lev Eliyahu, the great Gaon and Tzaddik, Rav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l records an amazing incident which occurred approximately one-hundred years ago in the village of Radin:
A wealthy businessman from Kelm named Nota had an only daughter. He eventually married her off to a Yeshiva boy who was a great Torah scholar and awarded him with a dowry of several thousand rubles and even supported them financially for several years so that his son-in-law could sit and learn Torah. When the time for the father-in-law’s financial support came to an end, the wife turned to her husband and asked, “How will we support ourselves now?” The husband replied, “I simply cannot stop studying Torah.” The wife suggested, “If we take our dowry money and open a business, I will stay there and run it all day besides for two hours when you will come take my place. In this way, you can continue toiling in Torah study.”
The husband agreed and so it came to pass. During the first three months, the husband was at the office for two hours a day, but as time went on, it became four hours, then eight, and soon enough, he was fully entrenched in his business and barely had time to open a Gemara.
One Motza’ei Shabbat past midnight, the wife went outside to spill out some dirty water as a snowstorm raged outside. When she returned, she looked as if she were choking and could not talk. The husband quickly summoned a doctor to the house but the doctor did not know what was wrong with her. The next day, the couple sought out more doctors and even traveled to Vienna for medical care, but to no avail. Word started traveling across town: Maybe she was possessed by a Dibbuk (wandering soul)?
They traveled to the city of Stutzin to a great Mekubal by the name of Rav Menachem Mendel zt”l, who many consulted about such issues. When the Rav asked a few questions to the Dibbuk, he heard responses emanating from the woman as her stomach moved up and down without her lips moving at all. Those present were truly frightened and exclaimed, “It is a Dibbuk!” Rav Mendel said, “I am not quite sure yet though. “He continued to address the Dibbuk, “Who is accompanying you?” The Dibbuk replied, “Five destructive angels.” Rav Mendel proceeded, “And what are their names?” It replied, “So-and-so etc.” Rav Mendel then stated, “Indeed, this is a real Dibbuk.”
Rav Mendel asked it for its name and where it was from. The Dibbuk replied, “Several decades ago, I was a student in the Yeshiva of Brisk after which I traveled to Africa. My friends influenced me negatively until I transgressed almost the entire Torah. I was then traveling in a wagon at which point I fell off and died. I have been roaming around the world now being chased down and beaten by destructive angels wielding rods of fire.” The Rav asked him, “Why did you not repent before you died?” He replied, “In my fear and confusion while falling off the wagon, I did not have a chance to think repentant thoughts.” Rav Mendel asked, “And what did this woman do to you that you are causing her so much suffering?” The Dibbuk let out a chuckle. “Her mother and mother-in-law asked me to do this to her because if not for her enduring this suffering, she would have no hope to survive in either this world or the next because she caused her husband to relinquish his Torah study.”
When they heard this, Rav Mendel made the husband promise to return to his intensive Torah study. He also promised the poor soul that he would learn Mishnayot and donate a sum of money for candles in the synagogue on his behalf and in his merit. Rav Mendel then gathered a Minyan of ten men in his room (among them Hagaon Harav Eliyahu Dushnitzer zt”l) and they read some chapters of Tehillim while he stood behind them. He then asked the Dibbuk to exit the woman’s body from her pinky toe. It agreed. They then sat the woman on a chair in the middle of the room and she suddenly fell of the chair and as she lay on the ground, a booming voice heard throughout the town of Stutzin was heard yelling, “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad!” At that point, her pinky toenail popped off and the glass of a nearby window shattered and she was healed. The husband returned to his full-time Torah study, as promised.