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Thought for the Day: Making Things Fair, HaShem's Way

There are a very few things I was told by my parents that I have resolved not to repeat to my children.  One of them is, "Well, if that's the worst thing that ever happens to you, then you are very lucky."  While I was usually able to appreciate the logic of that statement, I don't remember it ever making me feel comforted nor understood.  The other statement I vow, bli neder, not to repeat is to answer a child's complaint of "It's not fair!!" with "Life's not fair."  Besides all the other things wrong with that answer (see previous avowal to not say), I refuse to make that statement because it simply is not true; it is, in fact, fair.

When I say the world is fair, I do not mean that I subscribe to some Pollyanna philosophy that everything works out in the end and we should just smile through it.  I mean that reality is fundamentally and profoundly fair.  In fact, it is an open verse in our Holy Writ (Devarim 32:4):
4The deeds of the [Mighty] Rock are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful God, without injustice He is righteous and upright.דהַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ כִּי כָל דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט אֵל אֱמוּנָה וְאֵין עָוֶל צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר הוּא:
Yet... there was a gemara that has bothered me for years.  The Torah tells us (Shmos 22:13) regarding an accidental killer, that we must provide cities for refuge to which he may flee.  Why?  Because HaShem caused this situation to come into his hand (וְהָאֱלֹהִים אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ).  Chazal explain this to mean that HaShem will arrange for two people to come to an inn; one a premeditated murder (Paul), the other and accidental killer (Andy); both of which happened without witnesses.  Andy will be climbing up a ladder, a rung will break, and down will come Andy -- ladder and all -- onto Paul, killing him.  Lots of good, kosher witnesses this time, so Andy will now flee to the nearest city of refuge and Paul has been executed.  Justice has been served.

Hang on, though, I decried (silently)!  True, Paul has been executed, but Andy has not committed not one, but two, accidental killings; yet, he seems to be getting punished only for one.  As if that weren't enough, I recently realized an even bigger problem.  Namely, if HaShem can arrange for an inn full of people and for Andy and Paul to just happen to have business and/or pleasure trips just at the right time for all of this to happen.... wouldn't it have been a heck of a lot easier to just arrange for witnesses to be there in the first place?

The S'porno answers both: not every accidental death is equally accidental.  Not every murderer is equally bloodthirsty and cruel.  The punishment must match the crime -- meted out with fundamental and profound fairness.  The accidental killer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohein Gadol.  Random, you say?  Nay!  The meeting of Andy and Paul is precisely timed to occur just long enough before the death of the Kohein Gadol so that he gets his fair sentence.  Paul has been allowed to live long enough to settle he affairs fairly.  Perhaps Andy's sentence is shortened by the suffering he felt in causing another accidental death -- this time completely out of his control.  Moreover, Paul's relatives -- who did nothing to deserve the embarrassment and shame of being related to a convicted murderer -- will not have to endure any undue humiliation.

When I consider many of my past actions and what has befallen, I am not worried that HaShem has been unfair; I am much more worried about HaShem being too fair for my liking...


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