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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Can I get to Heaven on twice-a-year?

Daf Yomi Sanhedrin 90

A king once had a field that was producing poorly.  And so he decided to rent it out, the fee being a return on investment of ten tonnes of produce each year.  Alas, not for want of trying, the renter only managed to produce a single tonne per year.  When the king arrived demanding his due rent, the bereft lessee responded, ‘Your Majesty, you knew all the problems associated with this piece of land long before you tasked me with cultivating it!  Seriously, what did you expect? 

All Israel have a share in the World to Come, as it says, “Your people are all righteous, forever they shall inherit the land, the branch of My planting, My handiwork in which I take pride.”

What do you need to do to get to Heaven?  According to the Mishnah, as a Jew, you get an automatic entry pass!  No matter how many or how few mitzvos you perform in this world, you are righteous and going to Heaven! 

How does that work?  According to the Maharal, the key to understanding this idea lies in the verse quoted by the Mishnah.  Why are you righteous?  Not because of anything you did.  But because you are the handiwork of the Almighty.  He fashioned you.  He is perfect and therefore His creations are perfect.  The Maharal continues to explain that every Jew is a child of Hashem, as the Torah calls us, “My son, my firstborn, Israel.”  Each of us possesses a neshama (soul), which is a part of Hashem.  And so, you are righteous in the very essence of your being.  No wonder you are going to Heaven!

The Derech Yeshara (Rabbi Reuven ben Avraham, Italy C.18) uses this parable about the king’s field to explain why we needn’t be overly stressed about losing our place in the World to Come.  Just like the king was well aware of the pitfalls of his field before leasing it out, Hashem knows that He’s burdened us with a yetzer hara (tempter).  Much as He expects us to ‘cultivate the field,’ the odds are stacked against us.  If we can produce even a tonne of produce, we’re doing well.  What’s more, he says, even if we are deserving of Gehenom, we’ve already experienced it, living in exile!  And so, every individual, regardless of their spiritual station in life, is going straight to Heaven! 

Now, that doesn’t mean, of course, that we should slack off.  On the contrary, the knowledge that you are a child of the Almighty is empowering!  Sometimes we think to ourselves, ‘It’s all just too difficult.  We’re not winning this battle.  Why make the effort?’  But knowing that we’ve already won and that everything else is a bonus is incredibly invigorating and gives us the strength to persevere!

Don’t give up!  You’re already going to Heaven!  Now it’s simply a question of whether you get front-row seats to the big show or if you’ll be stuck somewhere high up in the bleachers!  You have incredible potential and an awesome personal mission that nobody but you can fulfill on this Earth.  May you forever remember that you are a child of Hashem and have the ability to accomplish pursuits that are out of this world!