The wait is nearly over! In the coming weeks, my book, "Reality Check: A Handbook of Hashkafa", will finally be released to the public! I am very excited to share this work with you. So while you are waiting to pick up your copy of "Reality Check", here is a preview, available exclusively here on "Nation's Wisdom":
There are constant references throughout Torah shebe’al peh regarding how everything we do in this world is not for this world, but for a world after this one — a world fittingly known as Olam Habah, the World to Come. Two of the more famous references are: “This world is like a corridor before the World to Come. Prepare yourself in the corridor in order to enter the banquet hall,” and “He who works on Shabbos eve will eat on Shabbos.” Olam Habah itself is described as a place where tzaddikim sit and bask in the glory of the Shechinah, where peace reigns, where the glory of Hashem is seen…
Did you understand any of what you just read? It’s not exactly a clear description. So what, then, is Olam Habah?
Understanding Olam Habah
At its simplest level, Olam Habah is the primary goal for our existence in this world, as well as the destination for our souls after we die. Everything we do in this life is in order for us to benefit from the pure spiritual atmosphere that is Olam Habah. For that’s exactly what it is, a place of spirituality where we can come close to G-d in a way that would not be possible in this physical world. Olam Habah is where we receive our reward (or punishment, chas v’shalom) for our actions in this world. While there is a concept of reward in this world as well, the reward we truly covet is the spiritual reward found in the World to Come, which is infinitely more enjoyable. Our whole journey through this world is only so that we can grow spiritually in order to gain more reward in Olam Habah.
Olam Habah can be gained in only one second, or even through the performance of a single mitzvah! However, once we enter Olam Habah, we can no longer achieve higher levels of spirituality. Olam Habah is a place of existence, not of growth. All growth must be done through Torah and mitzvos, and they can only be performed in this world.
"The Importance of the World"
There is a famous story told about the Vilna Gaon. When he was on his deathbed, he clutched his tzitzis in his hands and began to cry. He explained, “Here I can purchase a mitzvah for a few pennies, and through it gain immeasurable reward. But in the next world, no matter how much money I spend, I cannot gain any reward and serve my Creator!” Based on his incredible life of learning and teaching Torah, the Gaon was assured a prominent spot in the World to Come (and he must have known it), and yet he still wanted to reach higher and higher levels of ruchniyus.
Appreciating Olam Habah
Once we’re in Olam Habah, all that is left of us is our spiritual essence, our soul. In order to gain access to this spiritual existence, we must leave our physical body behind in this world, but we only do so after we have gained as much spirituality as possible through learning Torah, doing mitzvos, and serving Hashem in any way we can.
This provides an interesting insight: Olam Habah is totally spiritual, and we know that spirituality comes from Hashem, and by extension, the Torah. Therefore, people who do not appreciate Torah and mitzvos (regardless of whether or not they keep them) will not appreciate Olam Habah!
Imagine someone who does not seek spirituality or appreciate it. Would he even want to live in a place like Olam Habah? This is another reason why it’s important for us to understand what it is we’re doing when we observe mitzvos; it’s the only way for us to truly appreciate our actions, even if we’re already keeping the Torah. And it’s the only way for us to truly gain Olam Habah.
"What Is Spirituality"
While we may know of the gemaras and midrashim that describe the atmosphere of Olam Habah, since it’s a spiritual existence, it’s impossible for us physical beings to really understand what is actually happening there; the level of kedushah goes beyond our ability to express it in words or fully conceptualize it. But whatever concepts we do have, we can apply them to our understanding of Olam Habah…and multiply it by infinity!
Sometimes, it is mistakenly believed that there are three planes of existence: this world, Olam Habah, and whatever plane Hashem exists on. This is not true, as Olam Habah is not separate from Hashem; it is the same place as Hashem. When people die, we daven that their souls merit being next to Hashem’s throne, the Kisei HaKavod. Our intention is that they should be as close as possible to the spirituality of G-d, which is Olam Habah.
The Purpose of Living in This WorldIf the whole purpose of our life in this world is to get to the next, then why is this world even necessary? Why didn’t Hashem put us straight into Olam Habah in order to immediately take pleasure in His Shechinah instead of having us struggle through this world with all of its challenges?....
Want to read the rest of the chapter? How about the entire book! Make sure to pick up your copy of "Reality Check", available in Jewish bookstores in January 2016!
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