Nonetheless, G-d decreed that there’d be a limit to our need to strive for
perfection, after which we’d be recompensed 1. So there are two
epochs of time over-all: that of humankind’s efforts and struggles, and that
of its reward and recompense 2.
It’s in fact because G-d’s benevolence far exceeds His ill will when it
comes to His interactions with us 3 that He allowed for a limited
amount of time for our efforts, and a countervailing never-ending amount of
time for reward and on-going perfection 4.
1. The clear implication here is that there might not have been a time
limit, and that we’d need to go on with the struggle forever. But we’re told
that G-d decided otherwise, mercifully.
One might argue that the cost of that decision is our mortality,
and would wonder if the decision is merciful at all. But given that at
bottom life is a spiritual battlefield, a time limit is a gift. Those for
whom life isn’t a spiritual arena, though, for whom it’s a “Garden of
Earthly Delights” instead perceive death as unkind, but the point is that
it’s no such a thing, and that the recompense in the Afterlife is more
delightful than any worldly pleasure (while the penalty one experiences in
Gehennom, which lasts at worst only 12 months and is followed by spiritual
reward, is understandable and meant for purification).
The Afterlife will be discussed below in 2:2:1, etc. and elsewhere.
2. In fact there’s a third epoch: before humankind was created, but our
concern here is humankind, as we’d said, so that third epoch is irrelevant.
3. See Sotah 11a, Sanhedrin 100a, as well as Yoma 76a for discussions of
G-d’s kindness outweighing His strict judgment.
In fact, on all levels there's more goodness than malevolence --
more to be enjoyed or benefited from than to be endured in the world. For
all-in-all (with notable exceptions) the world is largely at peace; there
are more instances of kindness than cruelty; more health than disease; more
order than chaos; more reason than insanity, and the like. And while we
might not recognize that, it’s because our perspectives are skewed and
cynical. (See Moreh Nevuchim 3:12.)
4. That indicates that one reaches ever higher, deeper, and achieves greater
levels of perfection ad infinitum in the World to Come, given that one draws
closer and closer to G-d whose Being is infinite.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.