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Pirkei Avos: Who Is Responsible For the Death of Children?
The gemara (Kesuvos 8b) tells a story of the young child of Reish Lakish who died. Someone wanting to console him got up and said that children die because of aveiros. This shocked those present who felt this was adding insult to injury. The speaker explained that Hashem was angry at the aveiros of the generation and this holy child was worthy to be the Kapara for the generation. Similarly we find that the death of a Tzaddik is a kapara for the generation.
This is can be seen in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:1) that says "Hayeludim Lamus, V'HaMeisim L'Hachayos, V'HaChayim Ladun". This Mishna can be interpreted to explain this phenomenon. When there are aveiros in the generation "the Children will die". Similarly, "the death of Tzaddikim will bring life to those around them" as a kapara. But all of us who witness these tragedies and feel spared should remember that "Those of us still living will one day face a day of reckoning" for our sins and the deaths of the innocent that were meant to save us. (Likutei Basar Likutei)
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