Letters Oct. 2007

World to Come

Reader: Chronicles 29:10-13 says: "And David blessed Hashem in the presence of the entire congregation;  David said, "Blessed are You, Hashem, the G-d of Israel our forefather, from This World to the World to Come."

1. Why did he say "The G-d of Israel , only one of our Patriachs, and not The G-d of Abraham nor The G-d of Isaac?

2.  Is there a special connection between Israel (our Patriach), and The World to Come? 

3. What did he mean, from This World to the World? Does "This World" mean the Physical world, the Planet Earth as compared to the metaphysical  "World to Come"?

As I envision King David, standing in front of his congregation, as a King and as a religious leader, was he using himself as a model to teach his congregants how to bless Hashem, and what words to say? Was he saying to his congregation that they were obligated to Bless Hashem while they are all living, up until the day that they cross over? Was he also implying that man is obligated to Bless Hashem even after they cross over?

Rabbi, this command is very difficult for me to perceive, since I cannot envision the hidden appearance of the "World to Come."  Right now, the "World to Come" are just words and are like a figure of speech. Did King David elaborate, anywhere in the Torah, on what the "World to Come" was all about? Do we have a written source to refer to, to enlarge our perception of the "World to Come," or must we rely on "Faith," like all

the other religions of our time?

You have written many articles that our Torah is based on "Facts," not "Faith." Are we to live a Torah Way of Life, with all its restrictions, and not have any clear idea of the "World to Come" save vague metaphors and vague descriptions like, "our souls will experience the unlimited enjoyment of discovering  new ideas and concepts", or,  "our souls will be closer and warmer, and one step higher to the source of eternal light"? Another saying is, "If we learn Torah and perform more mitzvas in the Reception Hall, then the rewards in the Main Ballroom will be magnified and awesome."  These promises don't register since I have no idea about the World to Come.

In spite of all of the above vagueness, at Sinai, where we promised to obey the Lord OUR G-d, I will continue to try to learn more, and perform more mitzvahs. However it would be easier, and more motivational if I had a clearer picture of the "World to Come."

Mesora: The Rabbis agree that "G-d of Israel" is mentioned, for two reasons. The first is that since Israel (Jacob) was the first to make an oath of wealth dedicated to God, King David wished to embody that age-old perfection with all his wealth that he lists here. So he mentions Israel alone. The second answer given is that Israel was the fist to decide upon making a location dedicated to God. So King David who wished to do the same (with Temple) referred to Israel's perfection.

Why did King David bless God "from this world to the next world"? Perhaps as he was king and quite wealthy, he wished the people to recognize that human existence only starts on earth. But our earthly existence is not our entire existence. God did not create man to experience a mere 70 years...and nothing more. Our souls can live forever. 

But the great wealth and power possessed by King David could cause his nation to gravitate towards these entities, as ends in themselves. They would forfeit their true objective of pursuing a life of Torah. Therefore, King David properly taught the nation that human experience has a final stage, and Earth is not it. In one phrase, he redirected his nation towards God, and the larger picture of human existence.

Regarding the afterlife, there are no mitzvahs in that reality, so there is no obligation to bless God. The Rabbis teach regarding the World to Come, "No eye has seen it". This makes sense, for if we had seen it, how could our learning Torah here on Earth be motivated by the pure enjoyment of God's wisdom as is should? We would be learning just to get the "prize". And if we did learn for an ulterior motive, we would thereby forfeit that prize since the next world is a continued but heightened state of appreciating wisdom, but on higher plateaus. If we seek anything but wisdom here, we could not enjoy the next world which is wisdom to the nth degree.

The righteous anticipated the next world, as it must be devoid of physical toil, since we shed our bodies prior to our entrance. Without physical toil, those who enjoyed wisdom here, will have no distractions or impediments, their souls alone exist, and they will be euphoric in their newfound knowledge. 

We do not know what that exact state is in the World to Come, but we do know what it cannot be, and that alone was exciting to the wisest of men, both Jews and gentiles.


Reader: It is permitted to say Tehillim for a sick person. What is forbidden, is thinking as you are treating Tehillim as penicillin for a strep infection: say two/three times a day before meals and the sickness will go away. Tehillim is not magic. Appealing to G-d for help thru the word of King David is like prayer and is commendable. So is doing good deeds so that you will be more deserving of having your prayers answered (Shu"t Tzitz Eliezer XVII 30).

Is this true?

Mesora: These words contain truths, but must be clarified. Reciting Tehillim so we perfect our thoughts is proper, but assuming that saying Tehillim is the only action required to seek God's help for the sick is not true. We must - after reciting Tehillim - use the medium of Tefilah to ask for God's help. Tehillim is not the medium to make requests - Shmoneh Esray is. This is what the rabbis formulated, and what we must follow. And yes, by performing mitzvos, we may correctly assume that we deserve God's protection all that more.

Supporting Idolatry

Reader: My son was offered an opportunity is to work for a non-profit food-for-the-hungry organization. They need his help in designing brochures and the like. However, it's a Christian-based organization. That raises the question as to whether he should be working for them. Should one decline the work, or take it on? And if the answer is decline, then comes the further question of how far that would go. For example, what if it was a major tobacco company that approached you? Or a Las Vegas casino? Or any of a number of enterprises which could be considered as somewhat hazardous to one's health? It seems like there are infinite degrees here. Suppose it was a fast food chain, whose food is known to be tasty, but poor nutrition in the long run? Or a candy manufacturer? You see the challenge.

Of course, this question goes beyond graphic design businesses and really applies to any business.

Mesora: If I were your son, I would reject such work outright. I would say this goes only so far as the inherent nature of the organization or business is detrimental, such as all other religions. But a tobacco or fast food company doesn't produce inherently unhealthy substance: the loss of health is from the consumers' abuse, not the substance per se. Fast food or cigarettes in small quantitates do not harm us in a manner that the Torah would forbid it.

What I mean is that the Torah has no law limiting wine to just once a week...even though drinking it each hour may produce harmful effects. I believe Rav Feinstein once said that a single cigarette is not harmful, so the act of smoking - which means one at a time - cannot be prohibited. I would follow this rule. Therefore, creating cigarette package designs is not prohibited, since this is even further removed from smoking. But then there comes the philosophy of creating that which will lead people towards cancer. So I would decline this case as well if asked to design one, although it may not be prohibited. But I would accept creating packaging, websites, et al for a Taco Bell, since the dangers are much less frequent.