Full Faith, Olam Habah and Internal Motivation
1) Keil Shakai – The Avos Didn’t Question Hashem
“Vaera el Avraham.” Hashem is speaking to Moshe and says: I appeared to Avraham. “el Yitzchak v’el Yaakov b’keil shakay.” I always appeared with the name of shakay. “u’shimi Hashem lo nodati lahem.” But I have not made known my name of Hashem, yud, kay, vav, kay. Rashi brings down the famous Midrash that “chaval al d’avdin v’lo nishtachin, alas, those who have passed (the Avos) are no longer present (in Olam Hazeh).” Hashem was lamenting that Moshe was questioning Him with, “Lama hereyosah l’am hazah?” Why are you punishing and hurting my nation and not saving them? You sent me to Pharaoh and it appears to have only made things worse for them.
Hashem Created World and Always Watches and Leads
Ramban brings down his opinion which he develops here and in Parshas Bechukosai. When Hashem revealed himself to the Avos, He always revealed Himself as the Shakai, “asher ani shodeid bo hamazalos v’ozeir l’bechiry.” I’m the one that always helps people out. We say “magein Avraham”. Hashem is a protector. However, the name of Havaya, yud-hey-vav-hey, means something else. I, Hashem, am the one Who creates all of existence and I am the one Who can change things as well. That’s what I’m going to reveal in Mitzrayim to the Jews as we begin our quest of emunah and bitachon. I, Hashem, am the one who takes care of the Jewish people, and I, Hashem, am the one who can change anything to be in line with my will.
Yetziyas Mitzrayim and the ten makos and everything that led up to it was a display of Hashem’s awesome power to not only being the creator but also His being in charge of watching the entire world and being cognizant and providing His Providence, being aware of every single thing that happens, but also being in full control of the world, and that’s what Hashem revealed and that’s where our emunah is based. That is what the name of Hashem, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, means.
2) Why Isn’t Olam Habah Mentioned in Torah?
Ramban makes an interesting comment which a lot of the Rishonim talk about, and, basically, the comment is asking the question of why Olam habah, which we know is one of the tenants of our belief, is omited from the Torah? Chazal tell us in Sanhedrin, “Kol Yisrael yeish lahem chelek l’Olam Habah.” A person that denies Olam Habah is considered a kofer. We know that the Rambam lists it as one of the thirteen tenants of our faith, and if it’s so important and why is it not mentioned in the Torah explicitly at least? So, this is the famous kasha that the rishonim talk about.
Minhago Shel Olam
Ramban says that the sechar, reward, that the Torah offers us and even the punishment that the Torah gives is always discussed in Earthly terms because all that Hashem does for us is always delivered as nissim nistarim. Thus, Torah focuses on reward and punishment in this world. Hashem doesn’t do revealed miracles, but if He decides that someone should have lots of money, then he could make a way that this person will come across money. Either he’ll give him success or something will happen that will make him rich. It’s all done in natural means so that a person who doesn’t want to believe could deny it. If Hashem wants to punish someone or cause distress to someone, Hashem brings it in natural means. There isn’t an explicit miracle that opens up from Heaven and delivers rewards or punishment. That’s the way Hashem runs the world.
Therefore, because we’re familiar with the minhago shel olam which Hashem created, likewise the Torah focuses specifically on minhago shel olam, on the way that the world goes around, and that’s what we talk about specifically. The Olam Hanefesh, of course, is relevant and important, and Chazal tell us, and there’s many remazim in the Torah and it’s part of our mesorah that “Moshe kibeil Torah miSinai”, but the Torah itself does not explicitly talk about Olam Habah.
Chovos HaLevavos Gives More Answers
Chovos HaLevavos written around 1050 by Rabbeinu Bachaye Ibn Pekudah, has a lengthy treatment of this topic in Shaar Habitachon (middle of 4th Chapter). He asks this question as to why Olam Haba is omitted from the Torah specifically in his Shaar Habitachon because he says that if we’re supposed to believe in Hashem and that He’s going to take care of us, then Olam Habah is really important, but then why is it not mentioned in the Torah?
He brings seven answers as to why Olam Habah is not mentioned, and of course, these are all developed by him and by other rishonim and other mefarshim.
Seven answers of the Chovos Halevavos
Answer 1: We have no idea what Olam Habah is, but we know very well what Olam Hazeh is. Thus, that is what is discussed in the Torah. That’s very similar to what the Ramban is saying here.
Answer 2: We have a tradition directly linked to Moshe Rabbeinu verifying the promise of Olam Habah and so it is not necessary to be stated. Perhaps he means that Olam Habah is earned through following the Torah sheBichsav, but also the Torah SheBaal Peh because the gemara in Kesubos says, “Tal oros talecha.” Only someone who learns Torah and is shayach to Torah will have techiyas hameisim. Thisis why the gemara asks: bemay zachin? How do women merit it? They merit a large olam habah because the gemara says that they’ll be more righteous women than men. The gemara says: By encouraging their husbands and children to learn Torah, that is how they get their ikur sechar. Of course, they get sechar for their own learning as well.
It could be that that’s what’s being said here. The ikur connection to Torah is connecting to the da’as Torah, the Rabanan who carry the tradition, and they’re the ones that create the reality, and, therefore, that’s an important part of the Torah.
Answer 3: The generation of the Jews at the time of kabalas HaTorah, the dor de’ah in the midbar did not appreciate the future reward at this time and needed to hear that they would have a pleasurable Olam Hazeh in order to get them to accept Torah. So, that’s what the Torah stressed.
My dear rebbe, Rav Asher Zelig Rubinstein zt”l explained: Of course, the dor deah were tzaddikim gemurim, but the point is that each person on their own level, when they connect and they start learning the Torah, their focus is how is this going to give me a good world, a good life in this world, and when a person recognizes that Torah is not just an esoteric thing that brings us a good life in the future, but, like Mesilas Yesharim says, it’s good in this world and in the next. The Mishna in Avos says, “Ashrechah beOlam Hazeh, vetov lach l’Olam Habah,” that you can’t forget about Olam Hazeh because that’s what encourages us and it’s an important thing.
Answer 4: We’re already in debt to Hashem for all this kindness that He does for us, and, thus, we cannot say to Him that he owes us Olam Habah in the future.
Answer 5: Olam Habah is not for the outwardly fulfilled mitzvos. But, rather, it’s for those mitzvos fulfilled in the matzav of the depth of our hearts that is where it is earned for actions of true dedication and righteous intent. Thus, since it emanates from a hidden service it remains hidden in the Torah, and, like the Rambam says in the end of peirush hamishnayos to Makos that the ikur Olam Habah is earned from a person that acts l’sheim shamayim and does one mitzvah totally for the sake of Hashem without any other influences.
If we think about it it’s an awesome thing that that is where greatness is born. Greatness is born in our rare moments of truth in our life. In our rare moments where we could step up to the plate and do something great because that shows who we are at our essence, and those are moments and opportunities of greatness that Hashem provides us with and we should always look out for them because they’re powerful and important and this is where our Olam Habah comes from.
Answer 6: Since we are physical people and want physical pleasures, the Torah talks about the physical rewards promised to the one who keeps it.
Answer 7: Olam Habah is closeness to Hashem, and that’s only a person with whom Hashem desires closeness will get it. There are pesukim of deveikus in the Torah, and, thus, inherent in those pesukim is the mention of Olam Habah which is the fabric of Olam habah is connection to Hashem, to deveikus.
Many other rishonim that develop these ideas and say other ideas, and many other answers from the Shlah and other people. But, for now, that is what the Ramban is starting to hint to.
3) Translate “Leimor”
It says that Hashem spoke to Moshe leimor (Shemos 6:10). “Vayidabeir Hashem el Moshe leimor.” We find these words throughout the Torah many, many times, and so the Ramban brings down that from the mefarshim that what does this word leimor mean, and it’s a famous Ramban.
Radak: To Tell Over
Radak in Sefer Hashorashim explains that the word “leimor” that we find throughout the Torah, “leimor l’Yisrael.” It means to tell over to the Jews. Each command that Moshe was taught by Hashem was with the intent for him to tell it over to the Jews. Ramban rejects this translation because you find a lot of times that ‘leimor’ does not mean to say to other people.
Ramban says that my p’shat is that the word “leimor” means clearly. Hashem said over these things clearly, and therefore, when Moshe would say it, it was a clear message, and not a remez, and not something that left anybody confused. And, so it means, “vayidabeir Hashem el Moshe”, Hashem spoke to Moshe, “leimor”, He said over with utter clarity. “B’amira gemura.” With a complete utterance because Moshe was peh el peh, and not riddles, and, therefore, Moshe had perfect clarity. And, this is important because we want to make sure that the Torah is being transmitted properly. That’s what the word “leimor” means according to the Ramban. Torah must be clear.
4) How could Hashem take away Paroh’s bechira?
We find a very interesting thing which is that Hashem says, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh.” (Shemos 7:3) We’ve talked about this in the past. How could Hashem take away the bechira of Pharaoh? We spoke about this by the bris bein habesarim, the Rambam and the Ramban. If Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart, what did he do wrong in refusing to allow the Jews to leave.
Pharaoh Deserved to Lose Bechira
Ramban says that there’s two answers to this question. One of them is that Pharaoh was such a rasha, and he did so many horrific, painful things to the Jews that it warranted that he should lose his free will.
In Hashem’s Honor
The second p’shat is that the makos started off because of his own mistakes that he made, and that he chose. It says, “vayechazeik lev Paraoh.” Hashem strengthened Pharaoh’s heart at first. But then it turned to “Vayichbad Paraoh es libo.” Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Pharaoh didn’t want to send them free and acknowledge and honor Hashem, but because he was just in so much pain, he began to relent. However, Hashem said, “that type of Exodus is not acceptable, I want you to send them out solely and only because I commanded it.” You’re not going to send them out because you’re trying to get out of pain. Therefore, Hashem hardened his heart and gave him the ability to withstand the pain.
Pharaoh had said, “Mi Hashem?” Who is Hashem, that I should listen to Him?! So, Hashem showed him, “you’re going to know who I am and you will let them free because I am in charge.” That’s ultimately what happened. We even know that Pharaoh, according to one Midrash, went to Ninveh and became the king there, and he certainly knew Hashem when Yonah came and warned them that they were going to be in trouble he responded.
5) Why Not Remove Frogs Now?
Pharaoh and his nation were hit with the makos. During tzfardeah, frogs he beged Moshe: please, get rid of the tzefardeah, the frogs, and Moshe replied: pick a time (Shemos 8:6).Pharaoh said: “Tomorrow.” The question is logically, the Ramban asks, a person who’s in pain wants to get rid of the pain immediately, so why is he pushing it off until the next day?
Ramban quotes from the Ibn Ezra and from the Midrash that Pharaoh thought that Moshe was just reading the Heavenly signs, and knew that it was going to stop now, only offering this to Pharaoh because he knew Pharaoh would say, “remove them this moment!” So he wanted to test Moshe by delaying his request: All right, if you and G-d are in control of this or you are in contact with this real, powerful G-d, then make it tomorrow and not now. Of course, that’s what happened.
Ramban says that’s not p’shat. The p’shat is that Pharaoh understood that Moshe was telling him: Pick a time, but not now. Moshe’s words indicated that it must be a later time. Pharaoh thus chose the soonest time that wasn’t immediate: tomorrow. Moshe said, “Limasai?” This word means, when at a later time (should it stop)? The truth is though that this was a misunderstanding on Pharaoh’s part.
Pharaoh Assumed the Pain Would Continue
In a psychological manner, I explain that if a person is in pain, and they have given up hope, they often assume that the pain is going to last longer than it has to. Pharaoh himself was stuck in that mindset and simply assumed that it would last longer than it had to.
Mesilas Yesharim, based on Chazal teaches us that Pharaoh represents the yetzer harah. Ramchal explains that when Pharaoh demanded, “tichbad ha’avodah”. Make the avodah harder and harder, the Jews were about to give up and like the yetzer harah he strived to push them harder. That’s what the Yetzer Hara does he pushes us and pushes us until he makes things harder and we’re about to give up, and really “ilmalei HaKadosh Baruch Hu ozro, ein yachol lo”. We always need Hashem to help us, and we could always fail, but Hashem comes to our rescue and helps us out.
So I believe that Pharaoh himself fell for this. Pharaoh himself was stuck in a negative mindset, which is what the Yetzer Harah is all about. Negative mindset, negativity, hopelessness and sadness. Here Pharaoh himself was giving up hope. We’re always going to suffer. When Moshe offered him a way out, he misconstrued Moshe’s words and didn’t beleive he could ever be rescued. Thus, he and his nation suffered for longer. That’s the Yetzer Hara, always sabotaging.
6) Pharaoh Was Mechzeik Himself
“Vayichazeik Hashem es lev Paraoh. (Shemos 9:12)” Ramban explains an interesting psychological point here. During the first makos, the chartumim were mischazeik Pharaoh. They would say, “Don’t give in, we could do this too. It’s not a big deal.” But, when it came to this makah of kinnim, the chartumim couldn’t do it. The chartumim had nothing to say, and so Pharaoh did not have outside encouragement of people telling him this isn’t a big feat, it’s not a big deal, and so therefore, at that point, Pharaoh needed help to be mischazek himself, and that’s what he got. He was mischazek himself, and said: I’m still going to fight, and Hashem helped because the way that a person wants to go that’s the road in life.
Double Chizuk: External and Internal
We see an important point in life that sometimes people can encourage us and help us, for the bad in this case, and sometimes we can encourage ourselves, and if we flip that around because “meioivy tachmeini”, we always figure out the positive way to do things, we have the opportunity to, A) surround ourselves with healthy people, and encourage us to do Torah and mitzvos. Gathering for tzaddikim is tov lahem and tov latzaddikim, tov