The Gym and the Spa
Imagine that you are invited to an exclusive health club. Youíve never been
there, but you know the layout. On the right side is the gym; on the left is
the spa. The gym is the area where people work out. It has all of the
exercise equipment: the elliptical machines, the weights, the treadmills.
The spa is the place to relax. It has the sauna, the steam room, and the
You decide itís been a stressful week, so you head straight for the spa. But
by mistake, instead of turning left, you turn right and find yourself in the
gym. You look around and see red-faced men everywhere, grunting and
sweating. You let out a cry, ďWho needs all this equipment? Whatís all this
running, pumping and pushing about? Whoever designed this spa did a lousy job!Ē
This is an apt parable for Creation. When Hashem made man, He created two
worlds: This World and The World to Come. This World is the gym. This is
where we work out, where we grow and become bigger and better people. The
World to Come is the spa. That is where we enjoy the results of our work.
Each world has its place, each world has its purpose. We were put in this
world for a few short years to accomplish our mission. Then we leave it and
enjoy our accomplishments in the World to Come.
This parable is so fundamental to understanding life that without it,
nothing under the sun makes much sense. If a person attempts to make sense
out of life without realizing that we were put on this earth to grow and
then to enjoy our accomplishments in the World to Come, then he will find
many, many questions that have no answers. Not questions that he doesnít
know the answers to ó questions that have no answers.
The Answer ó Why Hashem Created the World
The Mesillas Yesharim explains that Hashem created man to give to him.
However, it must be something that he worked for ó not something that was
given to him. To enable man to earn his reward, Hashem created two worlds:
this world and the World to Come. This world was designed with the
challenges, trials and situations that allow man to perfect himself. The
World to Come was designed to allow man to enjoy the reward of his labors.
In accordance to the level of perfection that man reaches here in this
world, he is able to enjoy the presence of Hashem in the World to Come. This
world is the corridor to the World to Come ó which is the purpose of Creation.
Two worlds ó each with its role, each with its purpose. The key point is
that the World to Come isnít an addendum to life. It isnít an afterthought.
Itís the reason that Hashem created the moon, the sun, the heavens and all
that it contains. Itís the reason that He made man. Itís the reason for
life. If a person doesnít understand this he has little chance of
understanding anything that goes on in this world. Because he hasnít stopped
to ask that critical question: what did the Manufacturer intend it to be
Is it any wonder that people have questions about life? They are looking at
only half of the picture. The purpose of it all, the reason for it all,
isnít in their vision. So, of course, the whole thing makes no sense. And
they have many, many questions. Questions on God. Questions on the system.
Questions on the justice of it all. Why is life so hard? Why is there so
much suffering in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Many,
many questions ó and no answers.
All of these questions are built on one premise: life ends in the grave.
When we die, itís game over. Weíre dead and no more. If that were correct,
then their questions are valid. Life makes no sense. It truly isnít fair.
However, once a person understands the reason for life, then all of these
quandaries vanish like smoke.
A Perfectly Imperfect World
Why it is that man suffers so? Why did Hashem design a custom-made world
with such care and concern, yet purposely make it so hard for man to enjoy
those features? Granted Hashem made the orange, the pear, and the grape, but
He also made man in a manner that it is very hard for him to enjoy these
things. Why do it?
When we come to the core realization of why Hashem put us here, we view life
very differently. Our station here isnít significant; it is a vehicle, and
in that context it makes sense. We begin to see the form and the flow of
this world. While we may not know the answer to every question posed by man,
we have a framework to base our answers upon. The patterns of our
experiences weave a tapestry of meaning and beauty. All of the questions
melt away as reason and perception set in. The more time we spend on this
journey of understanding, the more the pieces fit together. Once we get it,
life itself makes sense.
Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier and Torah.org
This is an excerpt from the new Shmuz on Life book: Stop Surviving, Start Living. It is powerful, thought provoking, and life changing. The book is available for purchase at Judaica stores, Feldheim.com and TheShmuz.com.