Grow With EYAHT
Inspiring Jewish women to maximize their potential
Womens wisdom menu

Women's Wisdom

Women's Wisdom

NEW!! - Olam Haba - A Taste of Eternal Pleasure, Part 3
By Michal Flisser, EYAHT alumna

In Part 2 of this article series, we explored the differences between the pleasures we experience in Olam Hazeh and the rewards we will reap in Olam Haba. In Part 3, we will learn how to internalize and act upon these ideas.

To begin, let´s take a look at the opening words of the Ramchal, author of the well known book Path of the Just (Mesillas Yesharim): “The foundation of a good person and the root of perfection in the service of Hashem lies in a man’s coming to see clearly and to recognize as a truth the nature of his duty in the world.” (Echoing this principle is the famous sign at EYAHT that reads: “Why are you here, and what are you going to do about it today?”)

Attaining Clarity and Recognizing Truth

The Mesillas Yesharim continues that man was created for the sole purpose of delighting in Hashem and benefiting from His Divine Presence. This is the greatest enjoyment that exists.

This enjoyment, however, is reserved for the World to Come, while this world is the place we prepare to receive it. According to the Ramchal, man must thus:

1)      clarify in our minds, and

2)      recognize as true in our hearts.

What exactly are we clarifying and recognizing as true? The realities of Olam Haba.

Building one’s service of Hashem on knowledge alone is not sufficient. Though acquiring knowledge takes hard work, nevertheless through abstract knowledge alone we do not complete this work. We must both seek clarity and recognize the truth.

Clarification requires collecting, investigating and testing information. Only then are we able to clarify for ourselves the truth that results from this effort.

Yet it is not enough to know and understand our obligations. We must also recognize them as truth. This happens when we integrate our intellectual ideas into the depths of our heart so that our mind and heart feel and act as one. Without making efforts to acquire these levels, we cannot succeed in our life’s service of Hashem.

Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, the former Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem, relates a story that a student at the yeshiva complained bitterly that he had invested enormous effort in understanding the concept of Olam Haba, yet his faith in this area remained sorely lacking. It appeared to the student that all of his hard work was in vain.

Rav Levenstein reminded him that intellectual knowledge alone is not sufficient. A person must amass knowledge and then clarify and internalize it. After all of this initial effort, one must continue to work on it throughout his life.

Imagining the Greatness of Olam Haba

We yearn for Olam Haba and strive to merit it, yet we remain attached to this world.  We don’t realize that each world contradicts the other. In order to understand and anticipate Olam Haba, we must limit our attachment to the physicality of Olam Hazeh.

One way to do so is to picture for ourselves the true nature of Olam Haba and the greatness of its reward. This exercise can inspire us to begin the work of amassing knowledge and then clarifying and recognizing it as truth.

The Mesillas Yesharim writes about foolish people who don’t want to invest effort in building their portion in the World to Come. They rationalize that if they don’t merit a large portion, at least they’ll earn a small one. Were these people to have imagined the greatness of the World to Come, they would not settle for a small portion, but would have the ambition to increase their reward as much as possible.

Let´s apply this exercise to the Pirkei Avos we explored in the beginning of this series by trying to imagine “all the pleasure of this world”:

 

Close your eyes.

Now picture the most intense moment of bliss you’ve ever experienced. Keep your eyes closed.

Next, try to imagine the intensity of all that pleasure multiplied for a week, then a month, then a year.           

Now, try to imagine these pleasures multiplied by every person who has ever lived since the beginning of time.         

Open your eyes.

 

Rav Levenstein explains that "all the pleasure of this world" refers to all the pleasure that has ever existed from the days of Adam until the end of time. We need to add together every moment of pleasure ever experienced by every human being who ever existed and has yet to exist, and concentrate them all together. This mind-boggling, intense pleasure still does not compare to one moment of pleasure in the World to Come! Only when we fathom this fact can we begin to feel the great loss of reward for not performing one mitzvah.

Understanding Spiritual Pleasure

While this concept may be a bit overwhelming, Rav Levenstein tells us that we shouldn’t wonder how it’s actually possible to experience such intense pleasure. Rather, we should try to understand that the pleasures of the World to Come have no parallel in this world.  In Olam Haba, the pleasure is spiritual, and spirituality is not bound by time or quality. Spiritual pleasure has no dimensions.

In the limited world of Olam Hazeh, Hashem bestows infinite goodness on us in an unlimited way.  For example:

 

Our Sages (Chazal) tell us that there are 25,000 species of plants and that each one is uniquely different. We don’t know or understand the purpose of having so many plant species. But if Hashem constantly bestows unlimited goodness on the world, this includes plants.

Consider the story of Noach and the raven. Noach wanted to send away the raven, believing that the world had no need for it. Hashem told him that in the days of Eliyahu, the raven would be needed to bring him food. We see from this story that because the raven would be needed for one moment in all of creation, Hashem created an infinite number of ravens, throughout the generations.

The prophet (novi) Yirmiyahu questioned the good life of the wicked King Nevuchadnetzar. Hashem revealed to him that Nevuchadnetzar was being rewarded for running four steps in Hashem´s honor. For one seemingly insignificant deed—running four small steps—Nevuchadnetzar merited to rule over Babylon and, in fact, the entire world, including all the animals. He merited enormous riches as well as the fear of the entire world—for one small deed! If this was a wicked person´s reward in this world, can we begin to imagine the eternal reward of our forefathers (avos), Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?

We are obligated to take insight from these examples and others like them to understand the concepts of Olam Haba. Even more so, if we observe the manner in which Hashem bestows reward for good deeds in this world, how much greater we will fathom the reward in the World to Come. 

When we paint this picture for ourselves, we should be filled with joy at the realization that there is so much goodness waiting for us!

Michal Flisser is a recent Eyaht alumna