Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Portion in the World to Come?

Rav Elchonon Wasserman, zt”l, would recount a compelling teaching from the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l regarding a seemingly glaring contradiction: “The mishnah assures us that every Jew has a portion to the world to come. Yet immediately after this it lists exceptions. If there are exceptions, why does the mishnah make a blanket statement that implies that everyone has a portion unconditionally?
“The answer can be understood by way of a parable. Once there was a poor man who went from door to door collecting food and soliciting donations from kindly donors. A certain wealthy man had pity on him. He gave him a generous donation and a good meal. After this he brought the poor man into his pantry and filled the poor man’s sack with the best food that could be had. The poor man blessed his benefactor and left his home filled with joy especially since his sack was filled with food and his pockets were filled with coins.
“Unfortunately, the sack was old and had many small tears and there were holes in his pockets. Although these were not readily noticeable, they quickly expanded enough for the bountiful gifts to fall out of the sack one by one and his entire journey was littered with coins and valuable foodstuff which he needed, but had no way to contain.
“The same is true regarding one’s portion in the world to come. Every neshama’s spiritual pockets and pouches will be filled with spiritual illumination. But one who reads works of heresy makes one kind of rip while apikorsus cause a different type of tear. Lending money to a fellow Jew for forbidden interest makes yet another hole as does embarrassing talmedei chachomim... Unless a person does a heartfelt teshuvah, he will have no way of enjoying his portion in the world to come.”

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