Olam Haba - A Taste of Eternal Pleasure, Part 3
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”:
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:
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