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I Want To See My Reward!

Written by Anonymous

The sedra is made up of ten psukim of bracha if we observe the mitzvos faithfully, then many psukim of curses if we do not adhere to the mitzvos. And then we are given some laws and mitzvos. In the bracha section, the reward for keeping mitzvos is expressed in terms of rain falling in its correct time, a bumper crop, chasing away enemies, etc. There is a major difficulty here. I am not referring to why the brachos are not all spiritually-orientated, something like: ‘you will learn Torah well, daven undisturbed, and do chesed with genuineness.’ That question is taken care of by the Rambam in hilchos Teshuva (9;1) when he says that the Torah is saying here that if you do mitzvos, HaShem will take care of your physical needs to give you the time to focus on spiritual pursuits – so the Torah is dealing with spiritual pursuits too. The difficulty that I am referring to here is a slightly different question, namely why the Torah does not speak about the real reward; Olam Haba? Or, to present the question a bit more pressingly; when the Torah does purport to speak about reward, why does it mention the subsidiary reward of ‘if you do mitzvos HaShem takes care of physical things so you can do more mitzvos’ when the main reward for all of those mitzvos is Olam Haba and is left out? Or, if that was a bit too long – why is there no explicit mention of Olam Haba in the Torah?

There are several answers given to this question [I have not seen them all], but we shall speak about two of them and focus on the second.

The first answer I heard is based on the principal that the physical world mirrors the spiritual world. For example, the word Yerushalayim is in plural form, because there are two of them; the one down here in this world, and the one in the Heavens (see gemarra Ta’anis 5a). As a consequence of this idea, when the crops are growing well and produce is bountiful in this world, it means that everything in shamayim is also rosy; and so there is a reference to Olam Haba in these brachos, albeit a veiled one. The problem is that if this answer assumes that the Torah should in principal talk about Olam Haba, then why does the Torah not refer to it in an explicit fashion? Thus, let’s focus on the second answer. [From here on is basically from a tape I heard of R’ Tatz]

We mentioned the opinion of the Rambam above in saying that the brachos the Torah are not reward per se, but more like an expenses account. Just like a businessman is paid for by his company to stay in hotels on business trips abroad, so too when we are loyal members of HaShem’s ‘company’ in our observing His mitzvos, the Boss pays for our physical expenses as well. So why not mention Olam Haba itself? The Rambam’s answer differs from the one suggested above. The answer above posited that the Torah should mention Olam Haba, and indeed does mention it. The Rambam, however, holds that the Torah should not mention the real reward of Olam Haba, and that is why it indeed does not. He says that if the Torah would have mentioned Olam Haba, one would be motivated by that great reward, and our mitzvos would not be done with the correct intentions, which the Rambam details as ‘doing that which is truth because it is truth’ (hil. Teshuva 10;2) and not for the reward. Others explain the Rambam with a different twist. They explain that the Torah is full of obligations, for after all it literally means ‘instructions,’ and thus embraces life in its totality, with no pasuk unimportant or irrelevant. For example, all the stories in Bereishis before one gets to the bulk of the mitzvos are to teach us middos and derech eretz, which come before and are a prerequisite of accepting the Torah. As a result, if the Torah mentioned Olam Haba, we would have a degree of obligation to look towards Olam Haba in our mitzvos, and that would ruin their correct intentions.

And this opinion of the Rambam fits rather well with another view of the Rambam expressed via his thirteen expressions of faith – the thirteen ani ma’amins. [The thirteen ani ma’amin’s are actually the shortened summary version of the Rambam’s longer work on the subject, and were not necessarily even written by him. These ani ma’amins are listed in the siddur after shacharis] The source for these thirteen central tenants of Judaism is the mishna in Sanhedrin (first of perek chelek) which lists those people who do not have a share in the World to Come. Since these people sever their connection to Olam Haba via doing certain things, those things must also be central to the creation of one’s personal Olam Haba; hence their compilation into the Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith. For example, the first type of person that has no share in the World to Come is called a min (Rambam hil. Teshuva 3;6-7). A min, the Rambam explains, includes five categories of people, which we shall list with its corresponding ani ma’amin…

First are those who say that the world has no G-D and the world has no One as its manhig. This matches the first principal of faith that ‘I believe…that HaShem is the Creator and manhig of all the creations…’ The second type of min are those that say that there is more than one god, and the second principal of faith says that ‘I believe…that HaShem is uniquely one.’ The third min sect are those who say that there is one G-D but He is of a physical figure, which clearly corresponds to ani ma’amin number three that ‘I believe…that HaShem has no physical form…’ The fourth type of min is one who says that G-D was not the original Creator of everything, which goes hand in hand with the fourth ani ma’amin that ‘I believe…that HaShem is the first and last Creator.’ And lastly, min five is one who serves a star or intermediary force between him and HaShem, which evidently matches the fifth principal of faith that ‘I believe…that HaShem alone is due to be prayed to and no other figure.’ And so the list of those who have no share in Olam Haba continues, and they each have a corresponding pair in the principles of faith.

There is, however, one notable exception. In his thirteen principles of faith, the Rambam includes as number eleven the belief in HaShem meting out reward and punishment. However, in his list of those who have no share in the World to Come, the Rambam does not document one who does not believe that HaShem gives reward and punishment. But if the source of the Rambam’s principles of faith is the inference from the faults of those who have no share in the next world, why is someone who does not believe in reward and punishment included as someone who loses their share in the next world?

The answer is based on that which we said above. The Rambam’s principles of faith are central points of our religion, and so belief in reward and punishment are a reflection of that truth of HaShem’s overseeing the world. But what if someone does not believe in reward and punishment; do they lose their share in the next world. Well let’s see; if they do not believe in reward then why are they doing the mitzvos? Obviously not for the reward, but rather for intentions of observing truth. Thus, the reason according to the Rambam for the omission of Olam Haba in the Torah is the same reason that the person who does not believe in reward and punishment [although he is missing out on one of the principles of faith] does not lose his share in the next world; for they are doing mitzvos without total and reliant regard upon the reward that will come from it, but rather based upon the motivations of doing the correct thing that truth dictates one do.

Have a great Shabbes, and please G-D our mitzvos should be coupled with the correct intentions,

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