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Thought for the Day: How Great is Olam haBa!

We've been talking a lot about gehinom.  Obviously learning to appreciate the extremely unpleasant nature of gehinom it is a seriously motivating factor for avoidance.  Many of the anti-drug and anti-smoking ad campaigns rely on that.  The ad that sticks in my mind is the frying pan of hot, sizzling butter, "This is drugs."  Then an egg is cracked into the pan and while watching the egg cook (its edges turning brown) and hearing the sizzling, the voice over says, "This is your brain on drugs.  Any questions?"  No, sir; no questions.

But there is also a very positive message.  One of my favorite Rashi's on Chumash (doesn't everyone have a top ten list for Rashi?) is at the end of parshas Vayikra (Vayikra 5:17).
R' Yosi says if your soul yearns to know the gift with which the righteous are rewarded, go out and learn from Adam haRishon...
So far, so good.  Probably going to describe how amazing gan eden was, right?  Something about the beautiful climate, the scenery, being fed roasted meat by angels.  This should be good.  Not quite.
... who was given only one prohibition, which he transgressed.  Just look how many deaths resulted, both for him and his progeny.
Whoa... not quite what we were expecting.  Maybe it will get better.
Which of HaShem's attributes is greater, punishing or rewarding?  Obviously rewarding.
Better.  Still a little stung by that death decree thing, though.  Chazal continue:
Given that transgressing one prohibition engendered a punishment of so many deaths for so many generations; a person who refrains from eating on Yom Kippur, how much reward will he, his descendents, and the descendents of his descendents until the end of time merit!
Why do Chazal choose to teach us about the greatness of olam haba starting with the ultimate disaster and embarrassment of our existence in this world?  Ask yourself how you would explain color to a developing embryo.  Even if he is intellectually capable of understanding you, the concept of color is out of his reach; he has no frame of reference.  There is no way for him to appreciate something he has never experienced.  On the other hand, he does understand being uncomfortable.  Being uncomfortable -- being in pain -- is due to a loss of something I have or had.  He knows how it felt before the loss and after the loss; so he understands.  You could not explain the great things he will have in this world, but you could allude to the great loss of not being whole.

We have no frame of reference for olam haba.  An existence without time, without physicality, without even the spirituality that we know.  We do, however, understand levels of imperfection.  By increasing our understanding of the great potential for loss, we automatically increase our appreciation for the importance of entering the coming world as whole as possible.


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