Friday, December 10, 2010

The World To Come

This world is like the eve of Shabbat, and Olam Habah (the World to Come) is like Shabbat. He who prepares on the eve of Shabbat will have food to eat on Shabbat (Avodah Zara 3a)

Olam Habah is a reference to the afterlife. What is the possible connection between Shabbat and “the World to Come”? Just as all cooking for Shabbat must be concluded before Shabbat begins (since cooking is a melacha, a creative work prohibited on Shabbat), so too, in order to enjoy the world to come, one must prepare in advance, in the world of the living.

The ability to do mitzvot is limited to the world of the living (Olam Hazeh) as is noted in Psalms 115:17 “The dead do not praise the Lord.” Whatever “rewards” one receives in ”Heaven” are determined by one’s actions in this world. While there is no definitive description of Olam Habah and the rewards of the afterlife, it is generally understood to be an existence of pure holiness. The more meritorious a person, the closer that soul is placed to the ultimate source of holiness.

According to the Sages, every person has a share in Olam Habah. That share, however, grows or shrinks (or even, God forbid, disappears) based on a person’s behavior during one’s lifetime. It is important to note that each person is judged on how well he/she lives up to his/her potential. Thus, non-Jews who abide by the
seven laws of Noah
attain their Olam Habah just as Jews who observe the mitzvot of the Torah attain their Olam Habah as well.

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