This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Vol. 23 No. 30
Zehava Lurie a"h , Boris Glassmanz"l, Shimmy Schwartz ,z"l
Doreen Schwartz a"h, Pauline & Issy Chernick z"l
from the Glassman, Schwartz, Chernick Families
of Jerusalem, Efrat, Netanya, Johannesburg, Toronto, Perth, New York, Harare
The Source of Life
"You shall observe My statutes (chukim) and My judgements (mishpotim) that man shall do them and live by them" (18:5).
In the previous Pasuk, Rashi defined 'chukim' as Mitzvos that are not based on logic, but are Divine decrees, which the Yeitzer ha'Ra and the nations of the world query. 'Mishpotim' on the other hand, are logic-based Mitzvos, which we would have observed even if the Torah had not commanded them.
And it is in connection with both of these categories that the Torah commands man to "live by them", because they are the source of life.
The Ramban interprets the equation of Torah with life in three different ways, pertaining to physical and spiritual life in this world, and everlasting life in the World to Come, respectively:
1. G-d gave us the Torah to teach us how to live together civilly and harmoniously. It is a code of conduct that educates people how to respect one another and how to live together without killing and robbing. That is why the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:18) "You shall love your friend like yourself" - which Targum Yonasan interprets as 'What you do want done to yourself, don't do to others', And as Hillel told the gentile 'That is the basis of Torah Torah - the rest is all explanation.
2. According to Chazal, who extrapolate from the Pasuk "Live by the Mitzvos and don't die by them!" This teaches us that however important the Mitzvos are, human life is more important still. Like we find by Hillel, whom the B'nei Beseira discovered one Shabbos, lying on the skylight almost frozen to death, and who subsequently lit a fire to revive him, proclaiming 'It is worthwhile desecrating one Shabbos, to enable him to observe many Shabbasos. They taught us not only that the life of a Jew overrides Mitzvos, but they went further by ascribed it to his powerful potential.
3. As Rashi comments - 'And you shall live by them - in Olom ha'Bo - since in this world, everyone is destined to die'. This is easily understood with Zohar quoted by the Or ha'Chayim in the previous Pasuk. The Zohar explains that each of the two hundred and forty-eight limbs attains perfection by performing the corresponding Mitzvah to (perfection) and earns it eternal life in the World to Come. And this idea, says the Ramban, is contained in the B'rachah that we recite after being called up to the Torah - " ,,, who gave us a Torah of truth and implanted in our midst everlasting life'.
The author goes on to describe the three levels of reward in in this world and in the World to Come.
Someone who performs Mitzvos with the sole intention of receiving reward, as if he was striking a deal with Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu will receive achieve what he set out to do. He will merit an enjoyable life in this world, but not in the next. This is because he has stripped the Mitzvos of their Divine essence, and therefore of their eternal character.
If on the other hand, he performs Mitzvos in order to merit reward in the World to Come, that is what he will achieve. However, he will have to suffer in this world, to atone for his sins and render him worthy of that reward.
Receiving reward in this world as well as the next is something that is reserved for those who serve G-d out of love. They will enjoy a good life in both worlds. And it is about them that the Torah speaks at the beginning of Bechukosai, where the Torah describes a utopian existence in this world.
The Ramban goes on to list a fourth group, a small elite group of people. This group comprises a mere handful of Tzadikim of the caliber of Chanoch and Eliyahu ha'Navi, who disassociated themselves from every vestige of worldliness. They lived a totally spiritual existence, as if they had no bodies - like angels. These people he explains, do not die. When their time comes to leave this world, they continue to live on in the next.
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