Delving into it even more so we see that while the reward and punishment
system we'd depicted above is certainly rooted in Divine Justice
1, it's also based on the realities of the human condition
For as we explained 3, our actions affect our very beings
4 aside from our spiritual status, making us either more perfect
and exalted or sullied and faulty, in perfect proportion to those actions
Now, the mostly righteous person who managed to accrue a lot of spiritual
splendor 6 and stature has nonetheless also become somewhat
sullied from the few sins he'd committed, and he's thus not yet ready to
attach himself onto G-d's presence. So G-d mercifully decreed that he'd be
purified by the kinds of trials and tribulations calibrated to remove the
impurity from him 7. Then he'd be pure enough to enjoy that great
Just know, however, that one would have to experience the exact degree of
purification that would correspond to his status.
Know, too, that sometimes the cleansing process can't be carried on a
physical level so it must be done on a spiritual one 8. It's just
that we can't fathom the very many calculations that go into all of that.
1. I.e., it's rooted in the idea that the fair and just thing to
have happen is for the good to be rewarded for their selfless dedication to
the good and right, and the wrongful to be punished for their selfish
disregard of it. The point of the matter, though, is that there's another,
higher aim than that, which is seeing to it that as many individuals as
possible be able to bask in G-d's presence in the world to come, as was
pointed in 2:2:3 above.
2. This refers to our very human impurities as discussed below.
See 1:4:2 as well Adir Bamarom p. 341.
3. See 1:4:4,10.
4. … inside and out, in that they affect our physical beings much
the way that good or bad food affects our bodies, and good or bad habits
affect our personality, and the like.
The point is that being and doing good allows a certain
impalpable still point of holiness and perfection to nestle and glow in our
being while being and doing bad allows a certain opaque, noisome, and
unctuous blemish to fester there.
5. See Zohar 1, 24a and 131b; 3, 86b, 99b, and 128a; and Sh'nei
Luchot HaBrit 1, 26b.
6. See Klach Pitchei Chochma 32 for a discussion of this phenomenon.
7. See 2:2:9 and 2:3:8 below and Da'at Tevunot 40, 54 as well as
Berachot 5a, Zohar 3, 153a.
That's to say that, as all-encompassing as it is and touching
upon all elements of our being as it does, suffering -- both the kind we
experience in life or in the Afterlife -- undoes all blemishes and utterly
scours away at all stains, much the way weeping purges sorrow, and admitting
fault unburdens the heart.
8. This goes to explain why there needs to be an Afterlife in the
first place: to allow for the sorts of processes that can't be carried on
within the physical, emotional, or psychological realms we mortal beings
imagine would be enough to purify -- as well as to reward -- us.
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.