Let's quick things off with a story from the reknowned Jewish mystic and founder of Chassidut, the Rebbe Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov.
The Baal Shem Tov's Story:
One of the Baal Shem Tov’s students once asked him the seminal question: ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ In response, the Baal Shem Tov sent him to a well in a nearby forest, and told him to go and climb a tree there, and keep his eyes peeled.
The student was a little confused, but hey, it’s the Baal Shem Tov! And he knew that his holy teacher certainly had good reasons for giving him these strange instructions. The student got there, climbed the tree, and waited.
The first person came along, stopped at the well, took a big shluck of water, then walked off – but the student saw that he’d left his fat purse of money behind him, at the well.
Next, a young lad came along, saw the purse full of money, and happily took it away with him.
The last person came along, stopped at the well for a drink – and got beaten up by the first person who’d discovered his lost purse, and had come back to claim it. When he couldn’t find it, he was convinced the last person there had stolen it, and started raining punches down on him, so that he’d confess where he’d hidden it.
When all this was over, the bemused student climbed down the tree, and came back to the BESHT for an explanation.
The Baal Shem Tov told him:
“In a previous life, the first person who lost the purse was a litigant in a trial where he should have lost and been liable to pay a lot of money – except that he bribed the judge to decide in his favour.
The second person who found the purse was the other litigant, who was dishonestly swindled out of his money. Now, the account was settled.
And the third person who got beaten up, was the bent judge.”