Question: How do we know that there is an olam haba – a world to come?
Answer: The Rambam (Hilchot Melachim 12:4) writes, “Our sages and prophets did not desire the advent of the days of Messiah to rule over the entire world or to establish mastery over the nations. Nor did they desire the joy, the food, or the drink. Rather, all they sought was to be free to occupy themselves with Torah and its wisdom and free of any taskmasters or anything that seeks its interruption – all in order that they merit their share of the hereafter as we detailed in Hilchot Teshuvah.”
In Hilchot Teshuvah (8:3-6), the Rambam writes in reference to our reward in the hereafter: “This is the reward of which there is none greater, and the good of which there is none greater that is possible to follow it. It is upon this that all the prophets fixed their desires.”
Referring to the place and time of this reward, the Rambam writes: “And it is referred by many names in the manner of expression ‘Har Hashem – the Mountain of Hashem,’ ‘M’kom Kodsho – the Place of His Holiness,’ ‘Derech HaKodesh – the Path of Holiness,’ ‘Chatzrot Hashem – the Courtyards of Hashem,’ ‘Noam Hashem – the Pleasantness of Hashem,’ ‘Ohel Hashem – the Tent of Hashem,’ ‘Heichal Hashem – the Edifice of Hashem,’ ‘Beit Hashem – The Temple of Hashem’ and ‘Sha’ar Hashem – the Gate of Hashem.’ The Sages, however, chose to refer to this goodly recompense that is due the righteous allegorically as a ‘Seudah – a Banquet,’ and it is referred to in all places as Olam Haba – the World to Come – or the Hereafter.”
The Rambam writes further: “Perhaps one might make light of this good that awaits… [and think it consists of] food and drink, bodily desires, donning the finest of garments, residing in a home of magnificent beauty, and being adorned in silver and gold and the like just as the foolish idolaters who are steeped in evil and lewdness.
“Know that our Sages and those who are truly wise knew that all these things are exaggerations and worthless talk, and they serve no purpose. They are not significantly good for us in this world except that we possess physical bodies for which all of these provide our physical needs. The soul, on the other hand, has no desire for them as they only serve bodily desires and needs. When there is no more body, all of these needs disappear.
“The great good the soul will enjoy in Olam Haba – there is no possible way for one in this present world to achieve it and comprehend it. For in this corporeal world, we can only fathom that which pleases our physical beings and feeds our desires. However, the good that awaits us is so great and impossible to measure in terms of anything we understand as being good in this world. Rather, any comparisons are only allegorical for surely that good cannot consist of food and drink [which are unique to the physical world].
“More so, that good is so great that it has no comparison and is infinitely above and beyond anything we can comprehend. This is what David meant when he stated [Psalms 31:20] ‘Mah rav tuv’cha asher tzofanta li’rei’echa po’alta la’chosim boch neged bnei Adam – How abundant is Your goodness that You have stored away for those who fear You, that You have performed for those who seek refuge in You in the presence of men.’ David’s desire for the life of Olam Haba was great as he states [Psalms 27:13], ‘Lulei he’emanti lir’ot b’tuv Hashem b’Eretz HaChayyim – Had I not trusted that I would see the goodness of Hashem in the land of life.’”
It was this trust and desire that sustained King David in all his travails. The Rambam further elaborates with the words of Isaiah (64:3): “ayin lo ro’asah Elokim zulas’cha ya’aseh li’mechakei lo – no eye has ever seen a god, except for You, that acted for those who put their trust in Him.” It is that good that has never been seen by any prophet, save for Hashem, that He has in store for each person who puts his complete faith and trust in Him.
The Rambam concludes: “That the sages [Zohar vol. 1, 128:1] refer to it as Olam Haba – the World to Come – is not because it is presently not extant and will follow this world after it is destroyed. Such is not the case; rather, it is to be found and is extant as it states [Psalms 31:20]: ‘asher tzofanta li’rei’echa po’alta la’chosim boch neged bnei adam – that You have stored away for those who fear You, that You have performed for those who seek refuge in You in the presence of men.’”
It is only referred to as Olom Haba – the World to Come – because a person only enters that world after he departs this one where he exists with a both body and soul.
(To be continued)