Shabbos Parashas Tazria-Metzora

Parashas Tazria opens with a section describing laws of a woman who gave birth, which prompts the Midrash, and thus the Maggid also, to present some teachings relating to the role of man.
In regard to the reward for serving Hashem, the Torah mentions only reward in our material world. Thus, at the beginning of parashas Bechukosai, the Torah states (Vayikra 26:3-13): ““If you walk according to My statutes, and guard My commandments and perform them, I will give your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit….” And in the second paragraph of the Shema, the Torah states (Devarim 11:13): “If you hearken diligently to My commandments … I will give the rain of your land in its season … so that you may gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied.” Similarly, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 99a teaches: “The prophets all prophesied only regarding the days of Mashiach, but regarding the world to come – [it is written (Yeshayah 64:3, homiletically)] ‘No eye has seen, O God, other than You, what You will do for those who await You.’” The Maggid notes that many commentators have addressed the issue of why Hashem did not reveal to us the nature of the reward in the world to come. One commonly-given reason is that we are incapable of comprehending the nature of this reward. The Maggid discusses another of the commonly-given reasons.
In comparing between two items or situations, the Maggid says, one can be judged better than the other in two ways: either one of them is very bad, which makes the other better, or one of them is very good, which makes the other inferior. For example, if you go into a store and find merchandise that is mediocre but unflawed, and then you go into another store and find merchandise that is grossly flawed, you will obviously buy from the first store. But if you go to the second store and find merchandise of outstanding quality, you will obviously buy from the second store – although the merchandise in the first store is unflawed, the merchandise in the second store has special merits that the merchandise in the first store does not have. In the second case, in order for you to pick the better store, the staff of the second store will have to point out to you the special merits of their merchandise, for otherwise you will see no reason not to buy from the first store. Now suppose that the first store has grossly flawed merchandise while the second store has excellent merchandise. In this case, the second store is better on two counts. But the staff of the second store do not need to make a special effort to point out to you the special merits of their merchandise, because you would anyway buy in their store, once you see that their merchandise does not suffer from the flaws you saw in the first store’s merchandise.
This is how it is with the comparison of this world and the world to come. The reward in the world to come is tremendous. Still, if circumstances in this world were good and presented no problems, then Hashem would have to describe to us the special merits of the reward in world to come to induce us to work to earn it. But in fact life this world, aside from offering only ephemeral pleasures, is riddled with problems. Thus, even without knowing about the reward in the world to come, it makes sense for us to shift our focus away from life in this world and toward keeping the Torah and earning reward in the world to come. If we forsake the Torah and focus on life in this world, we are doing ourselves a disservice on two counts. In this vein, Hashem admonishes us (Yirmiyah 2:13): “My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewed for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
The Ramchal’s discussion in the first chapter of Mesilas Yesharim parallels the Maggid’s discussion above. The Ramchal writes:
You can see, in truth, that no intelligent person can believe that the purpose of the creation of man is his station in this world. What is life in this world? Who is truly happy and content in this world? [It is written (Tehillim 90:10)]: “The days of our life are seventy years, and for the strong eighty years, and their prime is but toil and pain.” So many different kinds of suffering, and illnesses, and pains, and hassles, and after all this – death!
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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