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Intro – The Who, Why, When, and Where
Iyov is a sefer that connotes suffering and the struggle for faith in Hashem. It is a sefer subject to many interpretations and meanings. The Gemara in Bava Basra (14b) says that Moshe Rabbeinu wrote Sefer Iyov. The Malbim explains that Moshe wrote Sefer Iyov to comfort Bnei Yisrael from the burden of their immense suffering in the crucible of Mitzrayim. Moshe Rabbeinu had struggled with the paradox of the suffering of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked from the time he ventured out from the luxury of Pharaoh's palace. It was then that he first became aware of his brothers' suffering and joined in their pain. Moshe Rabbeinu, with his compassionate heart, became consumed with the question of why the righteous suffer. When he had the opportunity to request what he most wanted from Hashem, understanding this mystery was his second request. (His first request was that the Hashem should rest His Shechinah exclusively on Bnei Yisrael until the end of time. This request was granted.) Chazal tell us that Moshe's request to understand the meaning of suffering was not granted.
However, there are many opinions of when Iyov lived, only one of which is consistent with the time of Moshe, which is that he lived at the time of the meraglim. Others believe that Iyov was one of the Jews who returned to Eretz Yisrael from Bavel, and he lived in Tiverya.
There are other opinions that he lived at the time of the Shoftim, the time of Achashverosh, the time of the reign of Sheba, the time of the Chaldeans, and the time of Yaakov Avinu. Those who believed he lived at the time of Yaakov Avinu, such as the Targum, say that he married, Dinah, Yaakov's daughter.
All of the opinions agree that Iyov was Jewish, except for the one who asserts that he lived in the time of Yaakov. Iyov could not have received nevuah if he had been a non-Jew, since, as mentioned above, Moshe had davened that the Shechinah rest only on Bnei Yisrael - a request that had been answered. However, in the time of Yaakov, non-Jews were still able to receive nevuah. The opinion that Iyov was non-Jewish stated that Iyov descended to the world in order to receive reward. However, when Hashem caused him to suffer, Iyov began to blaspheme. Hashem then granted him double reward in this world to keep him from the next world.
There is one opinion in the Gemara that Iyov never existed at all; he was a parable. However, this opinion is unanimously rejected because of the detailed account of his name and location. The Pachad Yitzhak quotes Rav Hai Gaon that this opinion means that Iyov's sole purpose in life was as a parable. People will learn from him to trust in Hashem during difficult times and maintain a belief that Hashem could change their fortunes for the better in the future. The Vilna Gaon expounds that the purpose of Iyov's existence was for mankind to learn a lesson in the proper way of accepting suffering. Additionally, we learn that man cannot judge Hashem, whose ways are complete justice. Hashem's ways may seem harsh at times, but a human being who is light years away from the loftiness of Hashem, cannot even begin to understand Hashem's ways.
Unfortunately, the enigma of what seems to be the absence of justice in this world has been responsible for many turning away from a belief in Kal Rachum Vechanan. Iyov, of whom Hashem Himself attested to his great tziddkus and faith, was unable to come to terms with his suffering on one hand, and his belief in the compassion of Hashem, on the other hand. Instead of choosing to believe that he was unable to fathom Hashem's ways, he chose to believe that Hashem was not involved in his day to day affairs. In his eyes, Hashem was too lofty to micro-manage the small details of a humble human being's life. Ultimately, he reached the conclusion that mankind is subject to the whims of nature and astronomy, and his life had been fated to be one of suffering. Fortunately, his friend Elihu convinced him of the truth -that Hashem controls every detail of mankind's fate, that Hashem is merciful, and that we as humans are not capable of understanding the cheshbonos of Hashem.
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