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Shabbat Parashat Shemini 5773

Ein Ayah: The Need to Think About the World to Come

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:270)

Gemara: All those who completed berachot in the Mikdash would say, “min haolam” (forever, as olam means biblically, but can be understood as in the totality of this world). When the heretics caused deterioration and said that that there is only one world, it was instituted to say “min haolam v’ad haolam” (from world to world).


[This is a condensation of a very long and complicated piece/]

Ein Ayah: The outcome of every good deed should be seen as something eternal. For one with a strong sense of community, there is automatically eternity, for the communal always exists, as it says, “A generation goes and a generation comes” (Kohelet 1:4). Therefore, there is already a basis for a complete divine reward system, for fulfillment of mitzvot has a positive effect on the eternal state of the collective.

It is known that justice regarding the individual is a foundation of justice for the communal as well. There can be guaranteed reward for the individual only if the soul remains after death to take part in the after-life and resurrection of the dead. When people’s philosophies were strong, there was no need to put a stress on that. This is preferable because considering the after-life requires abstract conceptions, which frustrates those who cannot handle them. It is enough for one to sense clearly the impact on the collective, and he will intuit that the individual who is a building block of the collective must somehow continue to benefit from his good deeds in a world that is all good. A person will see that in this world, one needs to be connected to the collective in order to see justice, and one who is connected will appreciate it. He will also understand that when there will be a different type of life, justice will continue in an appropriate way. He will be confident in justice for the individual because such justice is a basis for justice of the collective.

However, when the proper philosophies were challenged and the centrality of the collective was weakened, people became incited to doubt whether there is a moral value to life on the level of the individual. A need thus developed to stress that there are two worlds, which relate to justice in different ways. This world brings justice for the collective and the world-to-come provides justice for the individual.

This became even more important during the period of exile, when collective life lost its luster and even the justice of the collective was harder to sense. Then belief in the ultimate reward in the next world for the individual strengthens confidence about the success of the nation.

In general, people have an emotional nature and an intellectual nature. When things are working properly, one will naturally be drawn to do the right thing even without making a calculation as to the reward he will receive, as the pasuk says, “The purity of the straight person will lead him” (Mishlei 11:3). However, there must be an intellectual element as well, which tells him that there is a just reward for those good deeds as well. Once there is an answer to the question of the reward for good deeds, then it is praiseworthy for one to act properly based on the emotion without giving much thought to the intellectual. However, when people deteriorated to the point that they did not take encouragement from that which happens in this world, it became necessary to put a stress on the world-to-come, as found expression in the addition of “min haolam v’ad haolam to the end of berachot. This taught people that there is good that comes from a close connection with Hashem.

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