One of the central beliefs in Judaism is the belief in Olam Haba, the World To Come. This is the belief that beyond this physical world in which we currently reside, there is a spiritual realm where our souls will spend eternity. It is there where we will receive our spiritual reward for our actions done in this world. And because it is a basic tenant of Judaism, the question commonly arises, how come Olam Haba is not mentioned in the Torah?
While it is never mentioned explicitly, the meforshim have several explanations as to where we see Olam Haba hinted to in the Torah. One of them is found in this week’s parshah; “וְהִתְהַלַּכְתִּי בְּתוֹכְכֶם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים…” “I will walk among you, I will be a God to you…” (Vayikra 26:12). Rashi explains that when Hashem says He will walk among us, it must be referring to a place where there can actually be a concept of God walking, and not simply the Torah using anthropomorphic language to help us relate to Him. This could only be the spiritual realm of Olam Haba.
If this is true, the question still remains: if Olam Haba really is one of the our most important beliefs, why did the Torah not tell us straight out that it exists? The Kli Yakar brings seven answers commentators have used to answer this question. We have discussed some of these answers in previous years, here are several more.
The Ibn Ezra in Parshas Ha’azinu (Devarim 32:39) explains that while the Torah was given to each and every Jew, because of the depth of ideas behind Olam Haba, it can only be understood by one in every few thousand people. Similarly, explains the Ramban, all the ideas mentioned in Parshas Bechukosai seem to be simple acts of nature, however, when a person looks into these ideas with an open mind, it’s easy to see that they are nothing of the sort. For example, the Torah promises that if Bnei Yisrael keep to the Torah, they will have rain at very specific times (see Vayikra 26:4 Rashi). This is not a natural idea in the slightest. However, when a person reaches a certain spiritual level, their Neshama begins to have a certain effect on their physical surroundings. And a natural occurrence of rain can become a highly spiritual event. So the Torah doesn’t have to talk about Olam Haba since if your Neshama reaches that level it’s supposed to reach, it will become obvious to you through the increased spirituality surrounding your actions that there must be a world beyond this physical one.
The Ran gives a different answer. In those days, and frankly nowadays as well, most people did not believe in Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Providence. Either they believed in predetermined destiny or that Hashem completely left this world after creation. So in this Parshah, Hashem wants to show that people who do good will be rewarded, or the opposite, in this world where everyone can see the results. If He left complete reward and punishment for Olam Haba, it would be impossible for anyone to guarantee that there actually is reward and punishment. Therefore, the Torah doesn’t even mention it.
Finally, the Ramban in Devarim (11:13) explains that when deciding on whether to reward or punish the world at large, Hashem looks at the actions of the world as a whole. In those cases, even wicked people receive the good with the righteous and the righteous receive the evil with the wicked. However, the reward of Olam Haba is based on an individual’s performance. Therefore, it has no direct reference in the Torah. However, it is referenced by other mitzvos such as honoring your parents, which are individual-based actions.
Chazak Chazak V’Nischazek!
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