In any situation of decision making or planning, people take many factors into account. A person planning a vacation will consider the time he will miss from work, the cost of the trip, and the expenses of the activities which he would like to do.
In any situation of decision making or planning, people take many factors into account. A person planning a vacation will consider the time he will miss from work, the cost of the trip, and the expenses of the activities which he would like to do. He may also consider what clothes to pack, where he will sleep, and what and where he will eat. However, while people are very quick to think about these aspects of their vacation, we are often prone to neglect a very important consideration - how will this trip effect our relationship with Hashem. Will this vacation allow us to better serve Hashem, and therefore receive a greater portion in the World to Come, or will it lead to my becoming more distanced from G-d.
We might ask what is so important abo ut our situation in the World to Come that we should take it into consideration when making decisions. The answer to this question is well explained in the classic work on Jewish ethics, Mesillat Yesharim: "Our sages of blessed memory have taught us that man was created for the sole purpose of rejoicing in G-d and deriving pleasure from the splendor of His presence; for this is true joy and the greatest pleasure that can be found. The place where this joy may truly be derived is the World to Come, which was expressly created to provide for it; but the path to the object of our desires is this world, as our sages of blessed memory have said, 'This world is like a corridor to the World to Come' (Ethics of our Fathers 4:21). The means which lead a person to this goal are the mitzvot with which Hashem commanded us. The place of the performance of the mitzvot is this world alone." The mitzvot we perform here pave the way to our ultimate and eternal pleasure in the World to Come.
We now understand the importance of the World to Come. Yet, the Mishnah (Tractate Sanhedrin 11:1) states: "All of Israel have a share in the World to Come". If so, how can our performance of Torah and mitzvot affect our portion in the next world? Won't we get one anyway? In a way, it is as if we all have a ticket to the greatest baseball game of all time. But there is no seat printed on the ticket. It is up to us to determine how close we are to the field. Our decisions determine whether we sit by the dugout or by the left field flagpole. Similarly, the closer we get to Hashem in this world, the more we will appreciate our closeness to him in the World to Come. A person who knows nothing about baseball will hardly enjoy even the greatest game of all time. The fans will be on their feet and he won't know what's going on. Therefore, every mitzvah we do to get closer to Hashem in this world, gains us a bigger and better portion in the World to Come.
At the start of this week's Torah portion, Judah is faced with a major decision to make. He had promised his father Jacob that he would ensure Benjamin's safety when they went down to Egypt. If a tragedy were to occur, Judah declared that he would forfeit his share in the World to Come. Now, after Joseph finds his goblet in Benjamin's bag, he decides to keep Benjamin as a slave and send the brothers home. Seeing that his share in the World to Come is on the line, Judah steps forward to plead before Joseph. Judah has a choice to make. He could leave Benjamin in Egypt and go on to live a relatively normal and long life, but lose his portion in the World to Come. Or, he could replace Benjamin as a slave, and spend the rest of his life as a servant to the Egyptian ruler, but save his portion in the World to Come. Judah, realizing the value of eternal life in the World to Come, begs the Egyptian ruler to take him as a slave in Benjamin's stead.
Judah based a major life decision on the importance of his share in the World to Come. The same consideration should be made in daily decisions. When we find ten free minutes we should take our portion in the World to Come seriously, and use those ten minutes to do a mitzvah or learn Torah.
We must all learn from Judah to take our position in the World to Come into account in all of our decisions. Not only in our big, life decisions, but in our daily ones as well.
Avi Lowenstein, a graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying at the Yeshiva Toras Moshe in Jerusalem.
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