Spiritual Sides of Physical Phenomena by ET Lustiger


The idea of Olam HaBa is one we are introduced to early in our lives. Growing up, we are taught the idea that the more Mitzvot we fulfill, the greater portion in Olam HaBa we will receive; and the more Aveirot we transgress, the less Olam HaBa we will recieve. As a Jew performs more Mitzvot, he is elevated to a higher spiritual level, and the reward he gets from these Mitzvot, namely, a portion in Olam HaBa, is also spiritual. Thus, as Jews, we recognize the import of not only spiritual deeds in this world, but also the potential rewards it has for us in the world to come.

            Rav Eliyahu Dessler, in his Michtav MeiEliyahu, takes this idea a step further. He explains that if one were to take all of the benefit and enjoyment any person in the history of the world has ever experienced, and combined them all, it would not even compare to the amount of spiritual bliss that occurs when one is in the presence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu in Olam HaBa. This idea is expressed in Masechet Avot, “Rabi Yaakov Omeir, HaOlam HaZeh Domeh LiFrozdor BiFnei HaOlam HaBa, Hatkein Atzmecha BaProzdor, Kedei SheTikaneis LaTraklin” “Rabi Yaakov states, this world is compared to a corridor before the world to come; prepare yourself in the corridor so you could enter into the ballroom (Olam HaBa).

            After reading and appreciating the ideas expressed above, a statement by Hashem in Parashat Eikev seems to be paradoxical. The Pasuk states, “VeHayah Im Shamoa TiShme’u El Mitzvotai… VeNatati Metar Artzechem BeIto… VeAsafta Deganecha VeTiroshecha VeYitzharecha… VeAchalta VeSavata” "And if you will listen to my commandments… then I will provide rain for your land in its proper time… and you will gather your grain, wine, and oil… and you will eat and be satisfied" (Devarim 11:13-15). Here it seems that the reward for Mitzvot is a good physical life in the current world. This statement also has strong potential to be very dangerous, as some might do Mitzvot solely for the gain. Then, when they don’t see a tangible gain, they might become doubtful and skeptical of Mitzvot altogether. In order to reconcile the potential flaw and argument, Rambam in the 9th Perek of Hilchot Teshuvah explains that if one strives to do Mitzvot, Hashem will reward him physically in order to assist his quest for spiritual growth. For example, He will make him healthy, give him food, and keep him wise, for the sake of the glorification of His name and in order for him to fulfill his Mitzvot. Rav Dessler takes this a step further and says that the physical pleasures that are prevalent in our lives are real; they are there for us. A story is told that Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch once went on a trip to the Swiss Alps just to experience the wonder that G-d had created. HaKadosh Baruch Hu placed physicality and material items in this world for us; however, we must be sure to sanctify everything we have. To sanctify the land, we have Shemitah and Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz, and to make the produce holy, we recite Brachot. We must enjoy the good that Hashem has given us in this world, but not lose focus of the goal, as Kohelet says, (Kohelet 12:13) “Sof Davar, HaKol Nishma, Et HaElokim Yera VeEt Mitzvotav Shemor, Ki Zeh Kol HaAdam” “The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man.”

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