"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 3: "Mankind"
Ramchal expands upon a couple of ideas in this paragraph, which he’d cited
before, that still and all grate against the modern ear, which cringes at the
thought of either: "service" (because it implies duty and burden) and
"reward" (because it implies its antithesis, punishment). So we'd do well to
make service and reward more palatable and less glaring in order to
understand the underlying reasonableness and wisdom behind the concepts.
Some poor souls think reality consists of life as we know it, period. Other
more fortunate souls believe it consists of life as we know it and the
hereafter. But as we started to indicate in our last entry and mentioned once
before, reality actually consists of life as we know it, the afterlife, *and*
the sort of reality that will manifest itself after the Resurrection of the
Dead, known as the World to Come. Which will be a great and blissful life of
G-dliness and utter, utter fulfillment.
Now, everything that precedes the Resurrection of the Dead and the World to
Come is referred to as the realm of "service", The World to Come itself is
referred to as the realm of "reward".
Ramchal said the following in his famous "The Path of the Just" (Ch. 1), "We
weren't created for our situation here in this world-- but rather, for that
in the World to Come. For our situation here is the means to the one due us
in the World to Come, which is our goal."
That’s to say that we were only placed in reality as we know it ("the realm
of service") in order to ready ourselves for the ultimate reality in the
World to Come ("the realm of reward"). Interestingly enough for our purposes,
Ramchal then cites a tantalizing metaphor for the connection between this
world and the World to Come-- between the service mode and the reward mode,
if you will.
We believe that not only will the metaphor serve to illustrate the
reasonableness and wisdom of the ideas of service and reward-- it will also
show just how close to our experience service and reward actually are, and
how acceptable and *desirable* they are in context.
"Only one who struggles on the Eve of the Shabbat," Ramchal says in the name
of the Sages, "will eat on Shabbat" (Avodah Zarah 3a).
Let's illustrate the grandeur of this metaphor for those less familiar with
the process. The traditional Shabbat Eve (Friday morning and afternoon, until
early evening) is quite hectic and electric. Not a soul is left to his or her
own devices on Friday; there simply isn't time for anything else. The Shabbat
beckons more and more imploringly as the day goes on. Everyone's either
shopping, cleaning, preparing the table, doing laundry, cooking and baking,
or taking care of everything else that would otherwise get in the way of all
that. Everyone is simply and earnestly preoccupied with the coming of the
Shabbat. And everyone knows just when it will arrive, which is a fact not to
be denied. When the Shabbat arrives, everyone basks in the glory of hot and
succulent food, leisure, singsong prayer, and study of the holy books. Which
they would not have enjoyed without the noise and rush of Shabbat Eve.
In a way it's high theater in the making, with frenzied casting, preparation
of props, rehearsals, dress rehearsals, rewrites-- as well as tension, peaked
excitement, fear, glee, restlessness, denial, butterflies, deep satisfaction,
and awed anticipation. Till the clock ticks, and the "show" starts and plays
Though we don't call it that, theater calls for a lot of selfless "service",
with long, tiring hours of often menial work followed by months and perhaps
years of tiring, trying, emotionally draining and enthralling performance.
But the "reward" is wondrously palpable and real. To be sure, a good deal of
the reward for theater is monetary (just as a good deal of the "reward" for
Sabbath observance is tasty food and the like). But the most satisfying
reward is quite spiritual, in fact, and quite intangible. An undeniable
"something" in the core of the heart catches fire somehow or another, and
warms the belly for long hours. And *that's* the true reward for one's
labors. Be it for theater, or for the Shabbat (though there's really no
As Ramchal puts it in our text, we'll each differ by level and degree in the
World to Come, depending on our spiritual struggles and efforts in this
life-- depending on our Shabbat Eve preparations, on the effort we'd put into
The more effort and struggle, the greater the eternal-bliss and radiance, the
Shabbat warmth, the after-show glow.
And just as nothing motivates a Sabbath observer more than the thought of a
delicious, restful, fulfilling Shabbat; and nothing prods on a performer more
than the image of a performance that ignites its cast and stuns its
audience-- nothing more dazzles the soul of the righteous than the thought of
basking in G-d's light in the World to Come!
The effort-- undeniably taxing; but the reward-- indescribably delicious. And
if I know that the reward will mirror the effort made, the effort will be
well worth it-- and oddly, indescribably delicious itself.
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