"I have a question for you, Avi. Who is a 'Ben Olam Habo?'"
"Isn't that Rebbe Yochanan's question from the Gemora in Brachosii Brachos 4b, Abba?"
"Indeed it is, Avi. You have a very good memory. Do you also remember the answer?"
"Yes, Abba. One who places 'geula' immediately before 'tefillah'."
"Very good, Avi. What is 'geula' and which 'tefillah' is Rebbe Yochanan referring to?"
"'Geula' is the blessing after Kriyas Shema which speaks of redemption. 'Tefillah' is the 'Amidah' prayer."
"Correct! That is what Rebbe Yochanan said. Now, let us contemplate for a moment what he meant. Can doing something as simple as reciting the blessing of 'geula' before standing in prayer really earn a person a place in 'Olam Habo' - the world to come? One would think that it takes much more effort to merit 'Olam Habo'."
"Perhaps 'geula' is not so simple, Abba. It may be an extremely powerful blessing. However, I have a more basic question. What is a 'Ben Olam Habo?' There are several Gemoras which describe a person as a 'Ben Olam Habo' while he is still alive in this world - long before he actually reaches 'Olam Habo'."
"That is an excellent question Avi! I see that you are thinking very deeply into the subject. Firstly, let me address your first point, the bracha of 'geula'. In the morning, it is the last part of the bracha after Kriyas Shema. It speaks about how Hashem has always helped, protected and saved our forefathers and their descendants in every generation. 'Fortunate is the person who listens to Your mitzvos, and takes to heart Your Torah and Your word!' For this person, Torah is not just an intellectual exercise; rather he places it upon his heart, and lives by it. 'You, Almighty are the Master of Your nation, a Mighty King Who fights their battles. There is no beginning or end to Your existence. You redeemed us from Mitzrayim, from the house of bondage. You slew all of their firstborn and redeemed ours. You split the Yom Suf, drowned the wicked and brought across Your beloved ones. Not one of them remained! For this the loved ones offer hymns, songs, praises, blessings, and thanks to the Almighty, living and enduring King. (He is) exalted and uplifted, great and awesome, Who humbles the haughty and lifts the lowly; frees the captive, liberates the humble, and helps the poor. He answers His people when they cry out to Him.'"
"We can only hope to appreciate Hashem's awesomeness."
"Yes, Avi, we try. We now mention how Moshe and the Bnei Yisrael sang 'shira' to Him at the Yom Suf. 'Who is like You among the mighty, Hashem? Who is like You, adorned in holiness? Awesome in praise, performing wonders.' They thanked and crowned Him when they proclaimed, 'Hashem will reign forever and ever!'
"Now we complete the bracha with an appeal for the future redemption. 'Rock of Yisrael, arise to the aid of Yisrael, and liberate Yehuda and Yisrael as You promised! Our Redeemer, "Hashem of hosts" is His Name, the Holy One of Yisrael. Blessed are You Hashem, Who redeems Yisrael.' To summarize, 'geula' is a bracha which praises the Almighty's greatness, focusing on the past redemption, and requesting the future deliverance."
"This is certainly an awesome bracha, Abba, but how does it make a person a 'Ben Olam Habo'?"
"The talmidim of Rabbeinu Yona, in the commentary on the Gemora in Brachos, cite two answers to your question, Avi. Firstly, when we focus our thoughts on the 'geulas Mitzrayim', we realize that we are ultimately servants of the Almighty. He redeemed us from servitude to Pharaoh in order to be His servants. The reward for that 'avodas Hashem' that we have undertaken is 'Olam Habo'. By reinforcing this point, we come to live by it, and earn 'Olam Habo'. The second answer involves the realization of to Whom we are praying. When we mention Hashem as the Great Redeemer, we show that we trust in Him. One can only realistically make a request from One Who is capable of fulfilling that request. By recalling His might, and then humbly making our appeals, we show that the Almighty is the All Powerful One, capable of granting all requests. This 'bitachon' (trust) in Hashem is the foundation of 'emunah' and 'yira' (faith and fear) in Him. The reward for achieving these 'madraygos' (spiritual levels) is 'Olam Habo'."
"That is so inspiring, Abba. Why does Rebbe Yochanan refer to him as a 'Ben Olam Habo'?"
"We can see from his deeds in this world, namely that he places 'geula' immediately before 'tefillah', that he will earn 'Olam Habo'. The Maharaliii Chiddushei Agados on Bava Basra 10b and Sanhedrin 88b has a different approach. 'Olam Habo' is a totally spiritual world - completely disconnected from gashmius (physicality). One who prepares himself for the next world while still in this world, by separating himself from the gashmius, will find himself very comfortable in 'Olam Habo.' He is only living in this world for 'Olam Habo'. Therefore, he is already a 'Ben Olam Habo' while still here in 'Olam Hazeh'. We can recognize a 'Ben Olam Habo' by his humility and his dignity. Perhaps we can apply the Maharal's explanation to Rebbe Yochanan by saying that one who mentions Hashem's greatness and salvation before humbly entering His presence and beseeching Him shows that he is fit for 'Olam Habo'."
"I want to be a 'Ben Olam Habo' Abba!"
"You will be, Avi. Continue in your path of humbly serving Hashem. Be inspired by His redemption before you stand before Him in prayer. You will rise and rise in madrayga, and all will recognize that you are truly living for the spiritual world. This world is just a means to that. Even in this world, you will be a 'Ben Olam Habo'."
Kinderlach . . .
We have now completed our final preparation before standing in humble prayer before the Almighty King of kings, the Holy One Blessed be He. We have recalled His mercy and might in the redemption of our forefathers from Mitzrayim. He remains All Powerful, and we remain His beloved nation. Therefore, it is only fitting that we make our requests of the One Who is capable of fulfilling them. He revealed His might by redeeming us in the past, and He will, beyond the shadow of a doubt, redeem us in the future. May this inspire us to live a humble, spiritual life, serving Hashem and earning "Olam Habo". When we do this, we will earn an exalted title: "Ben Olam Habo", one whose merits to "Olam Habo" are already recognizable in this world. Kinderlach, may you all become "Bnei Olam Habo."
Kinder Torah Copyright 2011 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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