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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Foundations of Faith

Chapter 24

24. The Significance of the World to Come

The guarantees of reward in Judaism are not of the sort that it is impossible to prove; they are not related to an afterlife. It does not say in our Torah, “If you will perform this commandment, I will bring you gladness and pleasure after death.”
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We have discussed how the Rabbi informed the Khazar king regarding the preeminence of the People of Israel, the fact that they are an elite nation because they are graced with the unique sanctity, that they possess Divine traits, that they enjoy a special genius for prophecy, and that they have a place in the World to Come. After this, the King confronted the Rabbi regarding the nature of the last of these matters - Israel's place the World to Come.
Foundations of Faith (50)
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
23 - 23. Why Was Torah Given to Israel Alone?
24 - 24. The Significance of the World to Come
25 - 25. The World to Come – Further Clarification
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"I see," said the King, "that the guarantees of an afterlife made by other religions are richer and more bountiful than yours. These faiths lay greater emphasis upon reward in the World to Come than do the Jews."

To this the Rabbi responded, saying, "However all their rewards purportedly take place only after death; there is no benefit during one's lifetime, nor is there any indication in this lifetime of the future reward.

"And," added the king, "I have never seen anyone believing in these other rewards wishing that the arrival of these rewards would come sooner. If one of these people had the ability to delay these 'rewards' a thousand years so that he could remain longer among the living, he would do so - despite the burdens and miseries of this world. This simply shows that they do not possess complete faith in the promises of the rewards of afterlife."

The Rabbi asked: "But what would you say about someone who was witness to these great angelic spectacles through prophetic experience? Someone who had seen with his own eyes the awesome event of the Divine revelation at Mount Sinai and had heard for himself the word of God?"

The King of the Khazars answered: "Such a person would unquestionably desire for his soul to be constantly separate from his physical senses so that it could continuously bask in this holy light. I must therefore conclude that such a person would desire death."
The Rabbi said: "The guarantees of reward in our religion are not of the sort that it is impossible to prove; they are not related to an afterlife. It does not say in our Torah that 'if you will perform this commandment, I will bring you gladness and pleasure after death.' The guarantees of reward in Judaism are our bonding to Divinity, here in this world, through prophecy and near-prophecy, and the attachment of Divinity to our people with grandeur, glory, and wonders. God says to Israel, 'You will be a nation to Me, and I will be a God to you, and I will lead you (Leviticus 26:12). Some of you will stand before Me, and some will ascend to the heavens.' This refers to the prophets who used to roam amongst the angels. The angels referred to them as 'sons of man' so that they would be able to distinguish them from the angels all around. Scripture also states that angels will roam amongst you, and you will see them – sometimes only one, sometimes many at a time, in camps. They will protect you and fight for you, as it says regarding Jacob, 'He encountered angels. When Jacob saw them, he said, "This is God's camp." He named the place Twin Camps'" (Genesis 32:3).

In this world we are called upon to cling to the Divine Presence, hear the word of God, see Divine visions, and lead a transcendent existence. The World to Come is the natural continuation of the sublime existence which we already lead in this world.

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Postscript: In the above article, some of what appears to be the dialog of Rabbi Judah Halevi's The Kuzari has in fact been added by Rabbi Melamed for purposes of clarity and explication.
Much of the translation of The Kuzari in the above article is taken from N. Daniel Korobkin's translation of The Kuzari (Jason Aaronson Inc.).


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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