Olam Haba
Rabbi Reuven Mann
Rabbi, Young Yisrael of Phoenix, AZ
Dean, Masoret Institute
Student: I was learning the Ramban about Olam Haba (the afterlife), and I have a couple of questions. I was hoping that you could help. In learning your tape on this subject, you said that since the Ramban says that we will return to the state of Adam HaRishon, that means that our mind will naturally dominate over our instincts.
How does this work with the other parts of the Ramban's explanation. In Deuteronomy (30:6), the Ramban says "the heart will not desire the improper and it will have no craving whatever for it." "This is a reference to the annulment of the evil instincts..." "...for in the days of the Messiah there will be no evil desire in man, but he will naturally perform the proper deeds and therefore there will be neither merit nor guilt in them, for merit and guilt are dependent upon desire."
If there are no instincts, how are we similar to Adam? In that state, will we still sin?
Thanks for your help.
Rabbi Mann: You ask a good question. I would say that the Ramban holds that Olam Haba is analogous to the state of Adam, however it is not identical in every respect. For it is clear that Adam had free will and was therefore given commandments for whose violation he was punished. However he was different than we are in the structure of his instincts - his "yetzer hara", required external stimulation. For the natural flow of his instinctual energy was toward truth. In terms of his natural state one could say he lacked a yetzer hara. Thus the Ramban uses that state as the analogy to provide a model for Olam Haba. However it need not mean that Olam Haba is identical to Gan Eden (Adam's era) in every particular. In Olam Haba the structure of his soul will be such that he will not be subject to a desire for evil even regarding those things which are external. His energies will be such that his love of truth will always be superior to any physical desire. In general this was the state of Adam in Gan Eden, and the Ramban refers to this only by way of analogy.
In summation, Adam's natural energies were in line with the good but he had within him the potential for an emotional attraction which would be powerful enough to overcome his reason. Thus, Adam can be summarized as a natural state of good with possibility of sin (ie. if external stimulus occurs which attracts sufficient energy to create a conflict between reason and emotion) Olam Haba is analogous to Gan Eden only regarding the first idea. However it is different regarding the second, because the possibility of a conflict in which emotion will contain the potential to overpower reason will not exist.

Student: I assume that sin would then be impossible in Olam Haba. Will this change the system of Mitzvos? Will we still have Yom Kippur?

 Rabbi Mann: It would seem that since there will be no sin there will be no reward and punishment, hence there will be no need to repent and hence no Yom Kippur. Bear in mind that the key point is that the Ramban identifies Messianic Era with Olam Haba, which means the perfected state of the soul – the ultimate reward. Thus everything which we posit about Olam Haba. ie. "The world that is koolo Aruch (eternal), the world that is koolo tov (all good) etc." means that it will be qualitatively different than the world we are in now. The Ramban accepts all the statements about Olam Haba which indicate that it is a state of absolute good with no evil. The only difference is that he maintains it will take place in the physical universe and man will have a physical form. However, he will be a perfected being , not subject to conflict, and incapable of sin. As such, there will be no need for Torah and mitzvos which were given to man in his imperfected state as a means of perfecting him and bringing him to his perfected state. Once in that state there is no longer any need for the system which brought him to perfection. Once you are on the moon, you do not need the space ship which got you there.