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PIRKEI HAMACHSHAVAH - GATE I - CHAPTER 7 - REWARD & PUNISHMENT

GATE I

CHAPTER 7

REWARD AND PUNISHMENT



1. In the writings of the Pirkei Avot, we can read that A single moment in the Future World (Olam Ha'Ba) is much better than any existence in this world. That implied that, if we put together all the benefits of this world, that all human beings are likely to experience, from the days the world was created until its extinction, it would not be worth a single moment of the soul's delight in the future world.


2. On the contrary, it is written in the holy books that even the seventy years of suffering that Job lived in this world cannot be compared to a single moment of pain that the soul must endure in Gehinom.


3. We thus see that the pleasures and sufferings that can be known in the world to come are much more intense than those that are experienced here in this world. [A part of the following analysis was taken from the Ramban work called "Torat Ha'Adam, in the Shaar Ha'Guemul Portico"] And although we enjoy and suffer in this world, it is still necessary to know if these things affect our soul or only to our body. Because it is impossible that only the body is the one that enjoys or suffers. And rightly so: a corpse, that is to say a body without a soul, feels nothing and does not suffer as we understand it in the usual sense. Like the pleasures associated with food or the suffering the body feels when struck, it is impossible to say that only the soul enjoys or suffers. Therefore, we are forced to recognize that although joy and suffering essentially affect the soul, because the latter is wrapped in a body, these pleasures and pains are also expressed in physical form.

4. Now, in the future world, the pleasures are of a completely different nature. They concern only the soul and no longer pass through the body. It is the same with suffering in the future world: it immediately affects the soul. And it is precisely because these sensations will then be more direct that they will also be more intense.

5. You could compare this to a man who disobeyed a king of flesh and blood. To punish him, the sovereign orders the man to be beaten. But he gives you the option to choose that the Damned can receive five hammer blows on his bare hand or instead receive fifty after wrapping his hand with several thick cloths. And just as there is no doubt that one would prefer to receive fifty hammer blows, so it happens to us. In his book "Torat Ha'Adam", in the Portico "Shaar Ha'Guemul" (At the beginning of Chapter 6 and Chapter 7), the Ramban explains that it is not in this world only that fire consumes bodies. In the future world, there is also a spiritual reality called "Fire" (Esh). It is the Reality behind the origin of the concrete fire that we know here in this world. The nature of spiritual fire is to consume souls; but do not believe that the flames of Gehinom can be compared to the fire that we know here in this world.

7. On the other hand, apart from the contrast between the retribution of Gan Eden and the pleasures of this world, there is another difference in nature: the fact that the benefits of the future world are eternal. In fact, as the Ramchal teaches, that it would be wrong to believe that the reward in the future world is somewhat similar to what one pays his neighbor for a service, a job or for the purchase of something in this world. Here in this world as soon as we finish paying our debt we already comply. Whereas in the future world, the salary that is received is not only incomparably higher than the Mitzvot that have been done; rather it is something that never ends; it is something permanent, inexhaustible. Better still, the retribution eternally increases and intensifies, since by virtue of the prodigious spiritual reward that is received, man improves even more, he becomes more and more capable of receiving new and greater rewards.


8. Certainly the highest level is to perform the Mitzvot and move away from guilt due to the force of the love we have for HaShem, and by virtue of the fear that his magnificence inspires us, and not just because one is only afraid of his punishment. However, man must nevertheless fear the sanctions and have a clear understanding of the benefits that accompany the respect and observance of the Mitzvot, because these are two essential keys to protect oneself from the seductions of the Yetzer Hara. We must never forget it: By fleeing from the performance of Mitzvot or by acting wrongly or by misbehaving, Man has everything to lose, because any success that this world offers us doesn't really exist. This is nothing compared to even the most modest reward that awaits us in the world to come.




NEXT
CHAPTER 8: DEDICATED TO TORAH STUDY 


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