Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Olam HaBah -- Part I of Why It Matters, What It Is, How to Get There

One of the first reforms of substance instituted by the Reform Jewish Religion was to modify the second bracha of the sh'mone esrei from "m'chayei ha'meisim" (resurrects the dead) to "m'chayei ha'kol" (gives life to everything).  They made a lot of non-substantive changes also -- things like sitting together and driving on Shabbos; which are just yeitzer ha'rahs -- but this was a biggy.  What is so different about this one?  The statement is still true, and it's a heck of a lot easier to say for folks who don't like talking about death, heaven, hell, and the like.  And, after all, that stuff about after death is just faith, anyway.  Right; that's the problem.  It changes the way we live our lives.

I commute to work on my bicycle.  It's not the same kind of experience as renting a bike for an hour on a beautiful spring day and taking a leisurely ride along the lake shore.  It's an hour of real physical labor.  Sometimes it's cold, sometimes it's hot; it's always work.  I do it because I saw my father, alav ha'shalom, go from a major heart attack, terrible medical care (he was left overnight for 12 hours, misdiagnosed with indigestion), and triple bypass surgery to the picture of health with no medication in less than a year.  He then had 12 years of very high quality life.  The doctors all attributed his survival and astounding recovery to that fact that he had exercised all his life.  When I exercise, I am making an investment.  It may be hard, but I am investing in my future.  Moreover, now that I have been doing it for a few years, I have come to enjoy the actual ride itself; so it's a win-win situation.

If I knew I only had an hour to live, though, I would not spend it riding my bicycle.  Of course I enjoy riding, but that is secondary to the fact that it is an investment.  Take away the possibility of return, and I'm not investing.  That's what the Reform Jewish Religion did.  It took away the possibility of return, so those people who enjoy traditions kept doing them, those who didn't went bowling.  You need to believe, know, and understand that we are in this world for no reason other than as a preparation for olam ha'bah; that's the short and the long of it.

Understanding that I am living for olam habah is the tough part, I think.  After all, you want me to believe that if I do something wrong, there is going to be eternal suffering for it?  I have news for you, I am constantly doing things wrong.  Are you telling me that HaShem created me just to suffer for eternity?!?  How I am possibly going to feel motivated to even try?  I may as well go bowling and at least enjoy this world, as prospects for the next seem pretty grim at best.

So I could answer that existence itself is a gift, and G-d loves us, and G-d is Good; so that's not our concern and we just have to try our best.  That sort of misses the point, though.  I need some way to feel motivated.  I need some way to understand how my finite efforts in this transient world can have an infinite and unchangeable effect for eternity in the coming world that has no end.

Stay tuned; I have a thought on that.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…