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  Weekly Torah Thought

Today and Tomorrow

 

The Torah portion Vaes'chanan concludes with the verse: "You shall observe the commandment, the statutes and laws that I command you today to do them." Rashi comments on the words "today to do them" by remarking: "And tomorrow, in the World to Come, to take their reward."

Superficially, it would seem that Rashi is stating that reward is only to be obtained in the World To Come because, as some maintain, "the reward for a mitzvah is not obtained in this world."

But it is clear that Rashi, who first and foremost explains the simple meaning of a verse, cannot possibly contend that "the reward for a mitzvah is not obtained in this world." There are a multitude of verses in the Torah that promise physical rewards for the performance of mitzvot. In fact, immediately after this verse, the Torah goes on to say that the performance of mitzvot is rewarded with numerous material blessings.

What then are we to make of Rashi's statement: "and tomorrow, in the World to Come, to take their reward"?

Rashi answers this question by stating "to take their reward," rather than using the more common expression "to receive their reward."

There is a major difference between "taking" a reward and "receiving" it. "Receiving" indicates that the reward is conveyed to the recipient; the giver not only establishes the reward, but presents it as well.

"Taking," however, implies that the person himself must take the reward; the giver established a reward for the recipient, but in order for it to actually reach him, the receiver must "take" it.

According to Rashi, there are two types of rewards for the performance of Torah and mitzvot - the physical rewards explicitly stated in the Torah, and the spiritual rewards in the World To Come.

All material rewards fall within the province of "receiving." G‑d provides the Jew all manner of goodness in this physical world, without the performer of mitzvot having to expend any additional effort.

The reward of the World To Come, however, is of a higher order: Life in the World To Come does not consist only of being a "recipient," rather each person must "take" his reward.

In other words, the person finds himself in a world where he has the ability to delight in the radiance of the Divine Presence, but in order to actually receive this reward, he must do something.

The following also requires elucidation: "Today to do them" seems to imply that the observance of Torah and mitzvot applies only "today," i.e., in this world. What constitutes the spiritual service of the Jew "tomorrow," in the World To Come? For spiritual service will exist in the World To Come as well.

Rashi addresses this issue when he states: "And tomorrow, in the World to Come, to take their reward." By this, he means that in the World To Come, Jews will occupy themselves in taking their reward.

For as the Rambam writes, in order for the Jewish people to bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence, it is necessary that they work and toil by using their intellect.

Consequently, the Divine Presence that radiates to the Jewish people in the World To Come is felt by them not only in an encompassing manner as a result of it being given to them from Above, but also in an inward and internal manner, as a direct consequence of their understanding of G‑dliness - their spiritual labor in the World To Come.

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

 
 
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"Console, console My people," says your G‑d. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her, for she has become full from her host, for her iniquity has been appeased; for she has taken from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins...
Isaiah 40:1-2 (read on the Shgabbat after Tisha B'Av)


Parshat Va'etchanan
(Devarim 3:23-7:11)

The Parsha in a NutshellMoses tells the people of Israel how he implored G‑d to allow him to enter the land of Israel, but G‑d refused, instructing him instead to ascend a mountain and see the Promised Land.

Continuing his "review of the Torah," Moses describes the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, declaring them unprecedented events in human history. "Has there ever occurred this great thing, or has the likes of it ever been heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of G‑d speaking out of the midst of the fire...and live? ... You were shown, to know, that G‑d is the G‑d... there is none else beside Him."

Moses predicts that, in future generations, the people will turn away from G‑d, worship idols, and be exiled from their land and scattered amongst the nations; but from there they will seek G‑d, and return to obey His commandments.

Our Parshah also includes a repetition of the Ten Commandments, and the verses of the Shmah which declare the fundamentals of the Jewish faith: the unity of G‑d ("Hear O Israel: G‑d our G‑d, G‑d is one"); the mitzvot to love G‑d, study His Torah, and bind "these words" as tefillin on our arm and head and inscribe them in the mezuzot affixed on the doorposts of our home.

 

 
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