This pasuk (verse) appears almost at the end of the section of blessings at the start of this week’s Sidra (Torah reading). What though is the practical culmination of these blessings? Where will this take place?
The answer to these questions is not immediately clear from the text of the Torah. Rashi, (1040-1105), the premier Torah commentator, explains “And I will walk amongst you”, as God walking with us in the Garden of Eden, i.e. the world to come (if we have gone in God’s ways as set out previously in this Sidra). This would be the culmination of the blessings and provides an answer as to where this culmination would take place.
Why though does the Torah not state this explicitly and why is the world to come, which essentially appears to be a spiritual reward, not mentioned in the Torah itself?
Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Lunchitz (15th and 16th century) provides a lengthy discussion of this question, in his commentary to our pasuk, by summarising several different approaches before presenting his own commentary. Rabbi Lunchitz’s commentary is called “Keli Yakar”; this is the appellation by which he is usually known.
The first approach brought by Keli Yakar is that of Rambam (Maimonides, 1135-1204), in Hilchot Teshuva, the Laws of Repentance, 9:1. Rambam suggests that reward (in this case, the world to come), should not be the main driver for us to keep mitzvot.
Rather, we should perform mitzvot with appropriate sincerity because this is what a Jew does, not simply in order to receive reward (see the Mishna in Pirkei Avot 1:3, page 524 in the green Siddur). Accordingly, the Torah does not mention the reward of the world to come so that we have the proper focus when we perform mitzvot.
The second approach cited by Keli Yakar is that of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, (1089-1167) known as “the Ibn Ezra”. In his commentary to Devarim 32:39, the Ibn Ezra notes that the world to come is a complex concept to consider.
We may infer from the Ibn Ezra that, perhaps, the Torah, which plays a primary role in teaching us about being Jewish in this world, does not contain information about the world to come so as to avoid presenting material which may be beyond the comprehension and perhaps the immediate necessity of the average person. This pragmatic approach fits in with that of Rambam presented above. Live a life of Torah and do not worry about contemplating the world to come.
These are but two approaches to consider why the Torah omits explicit mention of olam haba, the world to come. Have a look at Keli Yakar if you are interested in the other approaches that he brings.
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