No small question this, and if we put a contemporary spin on it we might rather ask the following:
Why are so many young people being taken from us before they are zoche to leave progeny in their wake?
Why are so many young married women being stricken the dreaded yenne makla?
And why are so many Gedolei Torah being called to their justly deserved reward when we so desperately need their guidance at street level in this world?
The answer, of course, is that we haven’t a clue as to these or any of the other innumerable imponderables that besiege us.
But the Chofetz Chaim does.
Rabbi Yechiel Perr, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Derech Ayson, tells us in the name of Rav Pinchos Shalom Briskman that the Chofetz Chaim z”l was once confronted by his daughter with the very question that we posited above. His son-in-law, who was a big tzaddik and a great talmud chocham, passed away at a very young age and his young widow reminded her father that he had promised that her husband was a great tzaddik and then she asked:
“Tateh, why did he die so young?”
“There are people, answered the Chofetz Chaim, who are equivalent to half the people in the world. There are others who are equivalent to a third of the world. And there are still others who are the equivalent to of one quarter of the world’s people.
“What do you want, he asked her? That the Ribbono Shel Olam should lay waste to half the world?
“Instead He took just one person.”
So why do the righteous suffer anyway?
There are as many reasons as there are permutations of the sufferings in which they are engulfed and we aren’t privy to any of them.
But as the Chofetz Chaim lets us hear, there are times that those sufferings may well beat the alternative.