Question: How do we know that there is an olam haba – a World to Come?
Answer: As a people, our preoccupation with Olam Haba is fueled by the suffering we have endured through the millennia. Why, in fact, have Hashem’s chosen people been singled out by so many nations for unwarranted abuse? The nations of the world have sought our elimination from ancient times down to the Holocaust, during which a third of our people were exterminated.
During this horrific period, one young child clutched his mother’s hand as he walked to the gas chambers and asked, “Mama tzi ich bin nisht gevein a gitta yingel – Mother, have I not been a good boy?” One’s eyes well with tears when recalling this question asked by an innocent child whose only “sin” was being born Jewish.
Today, of all nations, the small state of Israel, the only Jewish state that exists, is uniquely and unjustly singled out by much of the world – even by “enlightened” nations. The ugly face of anti-Semitism rears its head time and time again in every place where Jews are found, and even where they are not found. Why does this continue even today?
We find somewhat of an answer in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah notes that we bear not only our own iniquities but those of all mankind. And it is commensurate with this burden that we will ultimately rise to unique prominence. We will be a light unto all nations, and all the peoples of the world will accept upon themselves the yoke of Hashem as the G-d of Israel and all mankind.
Yet, not all of mankind will partake in the rosy future. The prophet Daniel states (Daniel 12:2-3) “V’rabim mi’y’sheinei admat afar yakitzu eileh l’chayyei olam v’elehl’charafut l’diron olam. V’hamaskilim yazhiru k’zohar harokia u’matzdikaei ho’rabim kakochavim l’olam va’ed – Many of those who sleep in the dusty earth will awaken, these for everlasting life and these for shame, for everlasting abhorrence. The wise will shine like the radiance of the firmament, and those who teach righteousness to the masses will be as [as radiant as] the stars, forever and ever.”
Our sages (Avodah Zarah 3a) state that in the future, evil nations will witness all the good that has been bestowed on Israel and those who followed G-d’s ways and plead with Hashem to give them another chance. Hashem, though, will respond: “Tipshim she’ba’olam mi she’torach b’erev Shabbat yochal b’shabbat aval mi she’lo torach …ma yochal – Foolish ones of all peoples, he who has labored [to prepare] on the eve of the Sabbath [this world] will have what to eat on the Sabbath [in the future world], but he who has not…what shall he eat?”
In the future, we will reap our reward, but those who bore hatred toward Israel and other righteous individuals will be punished.
Like the patriarch Jacob, the prophet Daniel was not permitted to reveal the end of times as he saw it; he was commanded (Daniel 12:4) “V’ata Daniel s’tom ha’devarim va’chatom ha’sefer ad eit ketz yishotetu rabim v’tirbeh ha’do’at – As for you, Daniel, obscure the matters, and seal the book until the time of the end, let many muse and let knowledge increase.”
Man’s curiosity is such that he continues to inquire, but much remains concealed.
(To be continued)