Friday, September 27, 2013

Why Is Olam Haba Not Mentioned In The Torah?

       When we realize that Olam Haba, The World to Come, is the ultimate reward for all we do in this world, it is strange to think that it is not mentioned even once in the entire Written Torah! The Kli Yakar in Parshas Bechukosai (Vayikra 26:12) brings seven explanations from various sources for this. (In order to fully understand the context of some of these answers, please review the surrounding pesukim in Parshas Bechukosai.) They are as follows:

1. Rambam- All the good things mentioned in Parshas Bechukosai are listed to tell you that if you serve Hashem, He will remove all obstacles in your path (i.e. famine, sickness, war, etc.). However, the ultimate reward of Olam Haba is not mentioned in order that you continue to serve Hashem lishma, with true intentions, without any thoughts of reward or punishment. (Hilchos Teshuva 9:1)

Next, the Kli Yakar brings an Ibn Ezra in Ha’azinu (Devarim 32:39) which explains that the Torah was given to each and every Jew. However, the ideas of Olam Haba can only be understood by one in every few thousand people since they are very deep.
There are two different opinions as to what he is saying here, which are also the next two answers.

2. Kli Yakar- It is difficult for Human Beings who are physical, to comprehend the reward of Olam Haba which is completely spiritual. Therefore, since most people could not understand these concepts, the Torah hid it from all except for a select few.
[Diyuk from this answer: From this explanation, we see an amazing idea. The concept of Olam Haba was only given to a few people who were on a high enough spiritual level that they could relate to the spiritual ideas while still in this physical world. It was up to these people to study these ideas and relate over to us that which they could explain on our level. But not everyone has a fair share in the understanding of Olam Haba (at least in this world). However, the Ibn Ezra says that the entire nation received the Torah. Not just a select few, everyone! This means that the entire Torah, without any exceptions, can be explored and understood by every single Jew. There are no parts of the Torah where we can claim that they cannot be understood or applied to our lives. Everything contained in it is relevant.]

3. Rabbeinu Bachya, Ramban- All the ideas mentioned in this week’s parshah seem to be simple acts of nature, however, when a person looks into these ideas with an open mind, it’s easy to see that they are nothing of the sort. For example, it is not natural for rain to fall every week at the same exact time (see Vayikra 26:4 Rashi). The other ideas also come out this way when you look into them. However, when a person reaches a certain level where their Neshama, soul, has a certain effect on their physical surroundings, it makes complete sense. (Writer’s interpretation: So the Torah doesn’t have to talk about Olam Haba since if your Neshama reaches that level it’s supposed to reach, it will be obvious to you that there must be a world beyond this physical one.)  

4. Rabbeinu Nissim- In those days, most people did not believe in Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Providence. Either they believed in predetermined destiny or that Hashem completely left this world after creation. So in this Parshah, Hashem wants to show that people who do good will be rewarded (or if they do evil, will be punished,) in this world where everyone can see the results. If He left complete reward and punishment for Olam Haba, it would be impossible for anyone to guarantee that there actually is reward and punishment.
There is a discussion in the Sefer HaKuzari between the Narrator and the King where the King asks that if death leads to your reward in Olam Haba, why does nobody want to die? The Kli Yakar uses this and the opinion of Rabbeinu Nissim as an answer that the Torah only speaks in terms of what a person actually wants.

5. Rabbeinu Saadya Gaon- Before Kabbalas Hatorah, the Giving of the Torah, everyone served idols. After Hashem gave the Torah, he had to guarantee Bnei Yisrael that they would receive the same things from him that they expected from the idols. Since the idols only promised physical gifts, Hashem did the same. However, Olam Haba, which is only a Jewish idea, Hashem did not have to tell them about straight out.

6. Sefer HaKuzari, Rabbeinu Nissim- One of the greatest gifts that Hashem gave us was the ability to have a Mishkan and a Beis Hamikdash where Hashem would rest his Shechinah in this world, giving us a connection to Hashem in the physical world. This idea is mentioned several times throughout the Torah. Says Rabbeinu Nissim, if the Shechinah can connect to Bnei Yisrael in the physical world, all the more so after our spiritual selves separate from our bodies by death, they will be able to connect to Hashem. (However, this is only when the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash is standing which can only happen when we keep the Torah and Mitzvos.) So, similar to answers 3 and 4, really there is no need to mention Olam Haba in this context since for anyone who thinks hard about it, it is obvious.         

7. Ramban (Devarim 11:13) - When deciding on whether to reward or punish the world at large, Hashem looks at the actions of the world as a whole. In those cases, even wicked people receive the good with the righteous and the righteous will receive the evil with the wicked. This is what this parshah discusses. However, the reward of Olam Haba is based on an individual’s performance. Therefore, it has no place in this week’s parshah, but rather, it is referenced by other mitzvos such as Honoring Your Parents.

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