The Duties of the Heart
Gate Four: "On Trusting G-d"
Chapter 4 - Part 6
The sixth area in which we're to trust in G-d's decisions touches upon
certain "esoteric" themes like reward and punishment, and the Afterlife.
Belief in reward and punishment for one's actions is basic to the Jewish
faith. But it's really no more esoteric than the idea that every action has
an equal -- though not necessarily opposite -- reaction. Not a soul
believes that things happen in a vacuum or go about unanswered; indeed,
everyone knows that every "tick" elicits a "tock" *somewhere*.
We're asked to understand that on a deeper level, though -- to know that
some "ticks" do good in the world while others do harm; and that any and
all "tocks" that react to them will reflect that. We're also asked to know
that some reactions -- rewards or reprisals -- are meted out in the
here-and-now and others in the Afterlife.
Some have raised the question, though, as to why the Torah never speaks
directly of the Afterlife, which is indeed an esoteric theme. There are
several reasons, Ibn Pakudah informs us, most of which are due to its
esoteric nature, in fact.
It isn't mentioned in the Torah because most of us really can't grasp
things having to do with what the soul experiences anyway; because not
everything is to be committed to writing -- most especially not esoteric
things; because most of us would be overwhelmed if too much were to be
revealed, and would be distracted from the pursuit of spiritual excellence,
which is our main goal; because most of us only appreciate the
here-and-now, so the Torah focuses on earthly rewards and punishments; and
because the essence of reward in the Afterlife is attachment to G-d and
drawing closer to His celestial light, which we can't understand.
In any event -- to go back to how we're to trust G-d when it comes to such
things -- we're indeed to trust in the fact that we'll be rewarded for our
goodness as He promised, and suffer reprisals for our misdeeds.
It wouldn't be wise, though, to "rest on your laurels" if you'd been good
and to thus trust in *them* alone. "Thank G-d for all He's done for you
rather than look toward your reward in the future" Ibn Pakudah says, and
try "to repay Him with the gratitude due Him for all the many favors He has
bestowed on you" and trust in His decisions.
Because, the truth be known, we don't merit a lofty status in the Afterlife
by our own deeds alone. Much of what we attain is based on how much we'd
helped others grow spiritually, and a lot more comes upon us as a gift from
Finally, as to which deeds are rewarded or punished here and which in the
Afterlife, Ibn Pakudah offers this insight. As he pointed out early on in
this work, "there are two kinds of deeds: hidden ones, which G-d alone is
aware of ('the duties of the heart'), and obvious ones, which are open and
above board to all ('the physical duties')" he points out. "G-d thus
rewards and punishes obvious good deeds with obvious and worldly rewards,
and He rewards and punishes inner and hidden ones in secret -- that is, in
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