Everybody knows of the mitzvah of לֹא תָלִין נִבְלָתוֹ, that it is forbidden to allow a dead body to remain without burial, even overnight (Ki Setzei 21:23). Unless it’s l’chvod hameis; if there’s some important reason that you have to hold off – so you wait, but otherwise we don’t delay. The Torah says, כִּי קָבוֹר תִּקְבְּרֶנּוּ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא – bury the meis on that same day (ibid.). As soon as possible, bury the body.
Now, if it’s a mitzvah, then the Am Yisroel fulfills it. Every synagogue rabbi knows how these questions come up all the time – “Should we delay the levayah and wait for this and this person to arrive from overseas?” – and the loyal nation follows the Torah law. If it’s a command in the Torah then we do it.
Decree of Decaying
And yet it’s interesting to note that in this case, Hakadosh Baruch Hu didn’t leave it entirely up to us – He did something that encourages us to bury a dead body right away. The Gemara in Mesichta Pesachim (54b) tells us that גָּזַר עַל הַמֵּת שֶׁיַּסְרִיחַ – Hakadosh Baruch Hu made a decree, a law of nature by His decree, that a dead body putrefies. As soon as a person dies, the body begins to decompose.
So you’ll say, “What’s the chiddush? Doesn’t everything decompose? Don’t all living creatures decompose after death?” The answer is that Hakadosh Baruch Hu decreed something most unusual in the case of a human being. There is no animal carcass that when it begins to putrefy, is as unpleasant as a human body. You know, a piece of meat, if you take it from the butcher shop and bring it home and put it on the dining room table and let it remain for a couple of days, it’ll be very unwelcome. But the human body, after death, is much more unwelcome! After the spirit of life departs, a human body decomposes so quickly and in such an unpleasant manner that makes it abhorrent. A human corpse is the most undesirable object to have around. As it putrefies, it has the most offensive of all odors.
Now, there has to be a reason for this. It’s an arrangement that Hakadosh Baruch Hu introduced into the darkei hateva, into the processes of nature, for a purpose. And actually, it’s such an important purpose that the Gemara says that even if it wouldn’t have been so in the darkei hateva – even if it wouldn’t have been needed for the functioning of Olam Hazeh – Hakadosh Baruch Hu would have stepped in and would have said it should be so. אִלּוּ לֹא נִגְזַר דִּין הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה – it has to be this way (ibid.)
It must be so? What’s the reason for that? Why is it so important that the body should become abhorrent? So the Chachomim tell us that it’s in order to encourage burying it as soon as possible. Yes, there’s a mitzvah; it’s a command of the Torah – קָבוֹר תִּקְבְּרֶנּוּ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא. But it’s so important, that Hakadosh Baruch Hu went out of His way, k’viyachol, to make a dead human body most offensive in order that we should be in a hurry to bury it; so that we’d be encouraged to get the body out of sight as soon as possible.
But the question arises, what’s the hurry? What’s the big rush? Actually, wouldn’t it be a good idea if the body could remain intact for a long time? He would lie on the bed and people would be able to come and talk to him, to ask mechilah. “I’m so sorry I didn’t treat you right when you were alive. Please be moichel me.” It would be a good opportunity for many people. Here he’s lying on his bed – he’s lying in state – and the wife comes in; “I’m so sorry Jack. Forgive me for all the wrong things I did for you. Because of me, you had to work so many extra hours in the factory, just so I could buy chandeliers and drapes.”
Enjoying Bubby Forever
Visitors would come, children should come, grandchildren. If he has talmidim they’ll come to his bed, they’ll look at the rebbe, the dead body, and they’ll cry and beg forgiveness for not learning enough from him while they had the chance.
Even more than just asking forgiveness. Why can’t we just keep the meis around? After all, what is more beloved than some near one, a dear relative, who passed away? Wouldn’t the family find it more to their liking if they could cherish his presence always? Let’s say after their mother passed away, so they could ensconce her in a beautiful box with a glass lid and keep her in the living room next to the couch. They could enjoy her even more than before. She can’t talk now, she doesn’t spend any money either, and she’d also be painted up to look more beautiful than she did in true life. And so she’d be sitting or standing in that beautiful box and the family would forever enjoy her company.
So why does Hashem want us to bury the body so quickly? We think it would be quite nice if we didn’t have to do a hurry-up funeral.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
And so the Gemara says it’s not what we think. It’s what Hakadosh Baruch Hu thinks. And as much as you might think it’s good to keep the body around, He thinks not. He thinks that seeing a dead body is very dangerous.
Now listen to what the reason is. There’s a very big peril in letting a dead body lie around because a dead body is a testimony against hasharas hanefesh, the eternity of the soul. Seeing a corpse is a contradiction to the principle that man lives on after death. People look at the body and say, “That’s the end of a human being. It’s finished now. No more.” No matter how much your seichel tells you that the neshamah lives forever, when you look at a dead body it hits you between the eyes: ‘Look; he’s dead now. He’s finished.’
Yes, we believe that the body is sacred; we believe that it harbors a soul that will continue to exist but here you see it’s not so! His eyes of flesh are staring but they cannot see. The face looks exactly like a living person but it has no expression. It’s a dead-pan face. And the more you look at a dead body, the more you’re weakened in your belief in Olam Haba. It’s a fact that people who experienced it relate.
The Sin of Seeing
I once came to visit a man who was sitting shivah, nit eingedacht, for his father. I was sitting next to him and he broke down weeping. He said, “That’s the end?”
I said, “What do you mean ‘that’s the end’? You’re a frum Jew. You know it’s not the end.”
He said, “I know but I can’t help it.” He told me that it hurts him so much because at the time when he saw his father lying on the floor, he felt in his heart that it was really the end, that his father wouldn’t have any hasharas hanefesh. He looked at the dead body and he saw his father and he saw nothing. “I need some reinforcement in my belief in Olam Haba,” he told me. He always believed, but the fact that he saw his father dead created an ordeal, a test of the emunah.
It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t believe in Olam Haba. This Jew that I visited, he didn’t come out with a denial of hasharas hanefesh. In principle, there’s no question he would give his life for it. But in emotions, in feeling, in actual living, in daas, it was so remote from him that he couldn’t withstand the ordeal when he was actually faced with death. Something in his emunah weakened because of that sight. “It’s over; finished.” That’s how it looks to the eyes.
The Empty Overcoat
Now we know it’s not true. A dead body is just the shell; it’s the overcoat. You take off the overcoat and put it on a hanger and you walk out, so does that prove, should that convince a man that the one who was inside the overcoat was never there, that he was only an overcoat from the beginning?
Of course it shouldn’t, but if you keep on looking at an overcoat and you never again see the person – the person now let’s say is in Florida where he doesn’t wear an overcoat anymore. And he gets along quite well without it; he’s very happy in Florida. But you keep on looking at the overcoat, so you get the impression that there never was anything more than air inside the overcoat.
And that’s the biggest falsehood there is! The truth of mankind is that this world is only a preparation for the World to Come and death is not the end of life. And we have to live with the strongest conviction, with the clearest understanding and emotional conviction, that the meis is happy now. He is glorying in all the great achievements that he gained for himself by a life of virtuous living.
Birthdays and Yahrtzeits
Of course we weep, but even our weeping is only a ceremony. Like the Rambam says (Avel 13:11-12), that we shouldn’t have stony hearts; we have to train ourselves to have hearts of sympathy. But in reality, after we think it over, there’s nothing to pity the dead man. On the contrary, he has lived a life of success and now he’s living just the same.
Like it states, טוֹב אַחֲרִית דָּבָר מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ – the end of a virtuous man’s life is better than the beginning (Koheles 7:8). We don’t celebrate birthdays; we commemorate the yahrtzeit because he died successfully. When a ship sets out on a voyage we don’t celebrate because who knows what’s going to happen? An ocean voyage is dangerous. But when the ship returns to port loaded down with merchandise, with wealth, then we’re jubilant. We welcome him home again.
And so it’s not finished; the dead body is not the end. It’s only his overcoat that he took off. He left his overcoat in the lobby; he checked it in, and he went now into the banquet hall to enjoy the happiness that was prepared for him!
Kavod Hameis: a New Pshat
But it’s extremely difficult to understand that if you’ll keep your eyes on the overcoat. The dead body is a tremendous confrontation to your emunah in Olam Haba. Especially if you’re sentimental and you want to keep the body around in a glass box in your parlor. Every morning you come in and the husband says to his former wife, “Good morning, dear.” Each time he takes a look, his heart sinks within him. “That’s what I’m going to be, so what’s the use? All life is a failure. Ach, there’s no use to trying to do anything in the world.” He’ll fight that feeling, absolutely. But it’s there. It’s lurking.
And because the Afterlife is such an important principle of Torah living, of our Torah ideology, we have to fight against any falsehood that might weaken that attitude. And so the Torah says, כִּי קָבוֹר תִּקְבְּרֶנּוּ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא – bury the corpse on that day. And in order that we should do it as soon as possible, Hakadosh Baruch Hu encourages it with His darkei hateva. As much as possible the Am Hashem should go through life without focusing on the sight of a body without life, without vitality.
And that’s what kavod hameis really means. We think kavod hameis is because it’s a shame to allow him to remain unburied; he spoils. But that’s not it. It is a kavod hameis to get him out of sight in order that we should remember that he is not dead. That’s the greatest kavod – he lives on! And in order for our daas, for our emotional conviction in Olam Haba to operate to the highest degree, the first thing is to get the dead body out of sight. Because nothing will help as long as it’s there. The longer it’s around, the less you’re going to have emunah in the World to Come.
Part II. The Olam Haba Principle
Nothing is Small
Now, you might think, “Well, I believe in Olam Haba and so I don’t think that this is such an important reason for the mitzvah of burying the dead right away. I don’t believe that seeing a dead body, that being in the constant presence of a dead body, will affect my emunah in the Afterlife. And even if you’ll tell me, ‘yes, that it does’, it’s very minimal.”
But the answer to that is that when it comes to Olam Haba, nothing is minimal. It’s only because we don’t understand how important the awareness of Olam Haba is for our success in this world, that we can think such things. Only then can we think that this mitzvah of burying the dead and the derech hateva that Hakadosh Baruch Hu put into the briyah is not important.
The First Fight
The truth is that emunah in Olam Haba is one of the very first things which people must fight for; it’s the number one thing which people must strengthen. Because you cannot be a Jew, you can not even start being a Jew, unless you first establish in your mind this principle of principles.
You know who says that? The Chovos Halevavos. In his sefer there’s a section called Yichud Hama’aseh and he quotes there all the arguments of the yetzer hara and he gives answers to them. Many important foundations of the emunah are brought up in his list: Torah min haShomayim, yetzias Mitzrayim and many other important subjects. But before all the subjects are enumerated there comes one that he says is most important. “The yetzer hara will speak in your ear about many things,” he says, “but תְחִלַּת מָה שֶׁיְּסַפֵּק אוֹתָךְ בּוֹ הַיֵּצֶר, the first thing that the yetzer hara will attempt to cause you to fall into doubt about is this. He will attempt to weaken a man in his awareness of the World to Come.” He’ll do whatever he can to keep that idea far away from his mind, far away from his day-to-day attitude.
Now the question is, there are so many other important fundamentals. Torah min haShomayim?! What’s more important than that? What about briyas ha’olam yeish mei’ayin? Why isn’t that first? Why does the yetzer hara begin with the belief in Olam Haba?
The Fundamental Fight
And the answer is this. Because no matter how much a man is convinced of all the yesodos haemunah — could be he believes in Hashem as if he’s looking at Him directly. Yetzias Mitzrayim is actually yesterday to him and he believes in Matan Torah just as if he had been standing at Har Sinai. Torah sheba’al peh? There’s no question in his mind that everything is true. Everything is as clear as day to him. He’s convinced. No doubts at all!
But still it won’t help. Because if he is not well-founded in the belief in the Afterlife, then everything else is worthless. Because what value do all the principles of Torah have – or any principles at all for that matter – if the end is a hole in the ground?
What incentive is there to be virtuous if it’s not the emunah in the World to Come? The only support for humanity, for any kind of correct behavior, for any kind of righteousness, is the fact that there is a Next World. Because when people lose sight of that great fundamental principle of Olam Haba, that הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דּוֹמֶה לִפְרוֹזְדוֹר – this world is only like a vestibule, בִּפְנֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא – before the Next World, they lose all incentive to be good.
Don’t believe these people who say you can be decent and righteous even though you don’t believe in the Next World. Don’t you see what’s happening today? They’re capable of anything. The only reason they still mouth words such as liberty and equality and justice, these words are only a holdover from the old generations when they believed in the Next World. But these people are only repeating words that today have no foundation anymore. They don’t stand the test of time once a person doesn’t believe in a G-d and in the Next World.
Once people kick out from underneath their feet the ladder of the World to Come, of eternal responsibility, all of their ideals of liberty and humanity and morality are just empty platitudes. The ones who are always spouting off about liberty and justice, they have no reason why they should believe in liberty. Don’t you see – they are the ones who are most dangerous.
That’s why they’re trying now to kill old people. They’re preaching the ideal of euthanasia to kill off the elderly. If there’s no Afterlife, no din v’cheshbon, so why not?
Wicked Doctors and Righteous Janitors
And babies surely! They preach you can kill babies. They say it’s before they’re born, but actually in the hospitals, they kill babies even after they’re born. You know they put in a vacuum pump and they pump out the baby but it happens sometimes the baby by mistake didn’t die yet; so it’s born a live baby.
So the doctor takes a look and tells the colored janitor, “Get rid of it.” But the colored janitor is not a scientist; he believes in the Next World. So he turns away and he walks down the hall. “Nothing doing,” he says. “I’m paid to mop the floor, not to kill babies.”
But the doctor has no compunctions. Because no belief in Olam Haba means no compunctions at all. So he gives it a squash and he writes in the medical notes that the abortion was successful. It’s not just stories. That happens all the time! Many times babies come out jumping full of life, but he’s not supposed to be alive. And what reason should the doctor have to pity a human life? He doesn’t believe in anything.
Dishonest Academic Integrity
And when the college professor – he’s wearing ragged jeans and long hair and his chest is uncovered – when he catches a student cheating on the exam so he says, “That’s a terrible thing to do. It’s dishonest.”
So the student says, “What does dishonest mean?”
And the college professor doesn’t know the answer. He also doesn’t know what dishonest means. But he’ll start giving him arguments, holdover arguments from a society that lived with the hereafter. His father and mother after all were Catholic; they believed in G-O-D in his house growing up. Of course they substituted something else for it, but they call it G-O-D. And they believe if you’ll go to mass and you’ll worship their G-O-D, there’s a Next World. So the professor makes some weak argument to the student. “It’s the consensus of the university community, for the sake of academic integrity. And it compromises our personal ethical code by creating an environment of broken trust. That’s why it’s a wickedness to cheat.”
The Youth Rebel
But the student is already from the new generation. So he tells him “What moral code? Yours?! Why shouldn’t I be wicked? Why shouldn’t I do even worse things than cheat on a college examination? Why shouldn’t I shoot the dean in order to steal from him the key where he keeps the examination papers? Why not?”
And the professor has no answer.
And therefore, these criminals, because they lost the foundation of all humanity – that’s the World to Come – so anything is possible. Of course, the policeman is an incentive. Fines and jails or public disapproval are incentives. But that’s not enough. And so society crumbles; if a man thinks that there’s asylum in the grave so society crumbles.
But it’s not only society that we are worried about now. It’s ourselves! Because the same question you can ask of a frum Jew. Why shouldn’t you steal? So he says lo signov, it’s forbidden. It’s this and that. But if the sheol is a beis manos lach, if the grave is your asylum then there is no insurmountable argument for righteousness. And there are a lot of crimes that can be done without being caught, crimes you can do if you pull down the window shades. So what’s to stop a man from being as wicked as he can if he does it secretly or in his heart?
You know when temptation cannot touch a Jew? When he’s aware of Olam Haba. That person won’t yield for a taavah. Even the strongest temptation will be meaningless to him if he has clearly before his eyes this picture as he enters the Next World and has to face the Beis Din shel maalah and receive his everlasting judgment and everlasting reward. It’s only when a Jew becomes weakened in his emunah in hasharas hanefesh then he lets his guard down and he is capable of anything.
But I’m not even talking now only about consequences, about punishment. We have bigger things to accomplish in this world than avoiding Gehenom. The mitzvah of קָבוֹר תִּקְבְּרֶנּוּ is not for the professors, for the gentiles; it’s for us. Because we’re the ones that matter most – our minds, our perfection, that’s what matters most to Hakadosh Baruch Hu; and any weakening in the awareness of hasharas hanefesh is a peril to this perfection. The gift of life is a one-time opportunity and we have all different forms of perfection we have to achieve in the short time we’re here; perfection in mitzvos, perfection in Torah, perfection in character, perfection in daas, in Torah ideology. There’s so much to do and a person has to be focused on his mission if he’s going to be successful.
Focused on the Endgame
When does a frum Jew lose focus? When does he weaken in his avodah, in his quest for perfection of the neshamah? Only when he weakens in his awareness of Olam Haba. And when it comes down to it, that’s the tremendous difference between a true Jew and those Jews who are not attuned to the Afterlife. They are on the other side of the fence from us because you’re only a frum Torah Jew if you have before your eyes a clear realization of Olam Haba, of the Afterlife. A frum Jew understands that his primary job in this world is to sharpen his focus on the Next World.
And because it’s so important, therefore that’s the biggest test; the biggest yetzer hara in this world is the weakening of the awareness of the Next World. And it’s a very difficult test because the world is so real. This world is the biggest test of that emunah because here it is. This world is it, it seems. You can see it. You can feel it. It’s tangible. And so you come to think this is it. And then when a person dies, he looks dead; actually dead, finished, kaput. Oh, that’s a peril! It’s very difficult to maintain your convictions in the face of what your eyes see, and that’s why it needs work; it needs thought and practice.
And whatever you put into it, you’ll get back many times over. Because do you know when a Jew will make the most out of this one opportunity he has? When he sees clearly before his eyes the consequences of his everlasting career. Even we, the frummeh, the maaminim bnei maaminim, the best in the world, even we will not succeed in this world unless we are constantly aware of the Next World. Not that we know about it, we believe; no, that’s not enough. It has to run in our blood! It has to be the first thing we think about and the last thing too.
Part III. The Olam Haba Rehearsal
Rav Miller’s Straight Talk
Now rabbosai, you know already that we don’t pull any punches here so let’s say it like it is; let’s talk straight. There are plenty of frum people, right here, right now, who are very weak in this most important principle.
And you can prove it immediately by a simple experiment. Try listening into the table talk in an Orthodox home. So the ladies will be talking about sheitelech and about how hard it was to buy a dress. “I couldn’t get a dress anywhere. I went all over town to get a dress.” Finally she found it in a ‘special place’ – right around the corner.
The men? So maybe, if it’s a good home, they are talking divrei Torah. But listen in, however, and see if you can catch a little snatch of conversation about Olam Haba. No, nothing at all. Vertlach on the parshah, drashos, all good things you’ll hear. Wonderful! Very good! But what about Olam Haba? Did you ever mention Olam Haba even once at your table? I’m afraid not; except in birkas hamozon. הָרַחֲמָן הוּא יְזַכֵּנוּ לִימוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ וּלְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם הַבָּא. Some words that you said by rote without even thinking.
Rav Miller’s Table Talk
What am I telling you? Why am I saying this? Just to fill the time? No; I’m talking to myself. I’m letting you listen in but I’m talking to myself. We have to sharpen our awareness of Olam Haba! We have to bring Olam Haba back to our tables! It has to become once again the parlance, the speech, of our nation.
It’s a must! Because all around you is this world. That’s what we see with our flesh and blood eyes: Olam Hazeh, Olam Hazeh and more Olam Hazeh. So it’s not only a meis, a dead body, that contradicts the emunah in hasharas hanefesh; it’s everything we see! We live in a world of materialism. And today more than any other time. All around us is an ocean of shtus and tipshus. The world has gone crazy. The world today has gone insane with gashmiyus, with materialism, more than any other time. And so we have a big job ahead of us. We have to work hard to counteract all this stupidity, all the darkness, and get as much Olam Haba light into our heads.
Now, I have some ideas, different ways we can remind ourselves all the time about the Next World, about the eternity of the soul, and we’ve spoken about some of them before. But there’s one very profitable way that our Chachomim taught us and because it’s something that we have every week, so it’s an especially good opportunity for sharpening this awareness.
Shabbos is me’ein Olam Haba. The Gemara says that in Brachos (57b), that Shabbos is intended as a demonstration of the World to Come. How so? In what way? The truth is there are many ways but we’ll talk now about two of them, two that are easy to apply every Shabbos.
Go to Town!
Number one is to enjoy the Shabbos. Oneg Shabbos! Dive in! Have a good time! Go to town! But while you’re sitting and enjoying, you add the thought, “This is only a rehearsal, a premonition of what’s going to be in the future. Because one day, after 120, I’m going to be sitting down to a much greater seudah, a great big banquet just like this one, only that it will be a million times better, a million different things to eat.”
We have to imagine the things in Olam Haba. We have to get these pictures in our heads. The word is pictures, tziyurim – you have to create pictures in your mind. And as much as you picture it, it’s never enough because the more you picture it, the more the emunah grows in you. And Shabbos, me’ein Olam Haba, is a glorious opportunity.
So you’re finishing the fish and your wife went into the kitchen now to bring in the next dish and you’re imagining how in the Next World they’ll also serve one dish after the other, only it will be much better. You don’t have to tell your wife it will be better but it will be dishes like, I’m not capable of describing it to you, but there will be dishes beyond the ability of the best chef in this world to conjure up in his mind. Happiness without end! You’ll never get tired of eating there. Olam Haba is joys after joys, pleasures after pleasures, without end.
Ashkenazi Olam Haba
And Shabbos is the valuable opportunity. A pity that this is not utilized! You’re enjoying Shabbos morning after davening a steaming chulent. You, my Syrian friends, maybe don’t know what chulent is? If not, find out, because you’re missing something. Find out! And while you’re enjoying it don’t waste the opportunity. Ah! It’s a golden opportunity. You should sit and eat and think, “This is how we’re going to be in the Next World.”
Only it’s going to be a better chulent. There it’s going to be a chulent that you’ll never be surfeited with. In this world sometimes you can’t take anymore – you’re full, you’re burping a little too; but there you’ll eat and eat and the more you’ll have, the more you’ll enjoy it. The longer you’ll be there, the more delightful it’s going to be.
Superimposed Olam Haba
Now, does it cost money to think that? Everyone is there, you’re sitting down at the table and everybody is around you, all dressed in their Shabbos finery and the Shabbos candles are burning and on the table are delicious challos. So you’re imagining how it’s going to be in Olam Haba. You’ll be together with your family. They will always be young. Your children will be young. And they’ll be old too, getting married. Grandchildren will be there. All together. It’s all one panorama. You’ll have the children as children and also as grown ups; and you’ll have great-grandchildren there too. All together, you’ll be together, all of the happiness, one scene superimposed on another. That’s how Hakadosh Baruch Hu will make the scenario. And all together you’re enjoying the yom shekulo Shabbos forever and ever. The beautiful zemiros are resounding at your Shabbos table forever, and you’ll never be tired of eating there.
That’s how you’re thinking as you’re pouring the wine into the becher, getting ready to say kiddush. You know what you’re doing? You’re fulfilling the purpose of Shabbos me’ein Olam Haba. Others might say it – very good! Others might sing it – even better! But you’re fulfilling it! There’s nothing better!
Isn’t it a pity? Isn’t it a waste of life sitting at the table and eating up the good things your wife labored to prepare and nothing remains of it? At least there should come a profit, a gain. Not only you gained some poundage; you gained something in your mind too. You become a maamin in Olam Haba as a result of what you ate and enjoyed.
But there’s more than that. While you’re gaining an awareness of Olam Haba by enjoying me’ein Olam Haba in this world, there’s another important thought you should add. And that is that you wouldn’t be enjoying anything if you hadn’t prepared before Shabbos. מִי שֶׁטָּרַח בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת יֹאכַל בְּשַׁבָּת – If someone prepared on Friday, then he’ll be able to eat on Shabbos (Avoda Zarah 3a). That’s a good Torah maxim to remind yourself about a few times every Shabbos.
So as you sit down at the Shabbos table on Friday night or Shabbos morning or Shabbos shalosh seudos, you’re thinking to yourself – everyone else is busy with other things but you’re thinking, “Why am I enjoying the Shabbos now? Only because we prepared everything before Shabbos. But suppose I was loafing all week; suppose my wife also was taking it easy all week. And now Shabbos comes, so at the last minute she thinks, ‘I’ll run to the takeout food shop.’ She runs there but it’s closed already. There’s a sign on the door, ‘We close at three o’clock erev Shabbos.’ So she goes home. She’s dejected; there’s nothing to eat. And they sit at the desolate table on Shabbos. ‘Oh,’ they’re thinking, ‘if only…’” And that’s a very good premonition of what’s going to happen in the World to Come too if you’re not busy in this world. מִי שֶׁטָּרַח בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת יֹאכַל בְּשַׁבָּת – Only if you prepared in this world then you’ll be able to eat on the Yom Shekulo Shabbos.
Shabbos Without Havdalah
So imagine next Friday night when you sit down to eat and you take the piece of challah, so you’ll think “I’m eating now only because I made sure that it was prepared before; that’s why I have it now. And that’s a reminder for me that whatever I’ll prepare for the Next World, that’s what I’ll have there, no more and no less. And if I don’t prepare, I’m going to be very uncomfortable there.”
At least in this world it’s only a rehearsal – as soon as you make havdalah, you can run out to the supermarket and buy something to eat. But in Olam Haba there is no havdalah. You can wait and wait but the sun never goes down. Three stars will never come out. And it will be a Gehenom forever and ever for people who lived a carefree life in this world and didn’t prepare.
120 Years of Shabbos Afternoon
And so, if you want to prepare for the World to Come, you have to do some shopping. You have to work before the Shabbos sneaks up on you. You have to make preparations. You must prepare for the World to Come. אֹגֵר בַּקַּיִץ בֵּן מַשְׂכִּיל — The wise son is busy collecting the harvest in the summertime (Mishlei 10:5). As long as the produce is still available he’s collecting. The summertime, that’s this world. When you enter the funeral home, the winter begins and only what you took along during the summertime, that’s what you’ll have.
And so that’s the number two lesson of Shabbosme’ein Olam Haba; every Shabbos you put some thought into practicing this idea. Once or twice you’ll stop and think about that. You’re already a head taller than everyone else! If you want to be especially tall, you’ll do it more than twice. Because every time you think that thought, you’re fighting back against the laziness of the mind that forgets about Olam Haba.
A New Mind
This Friday night try it out. Number one, this oneg is only a premonition of the ultimate oneg, and number two, it only came because I prepared. That’s how you should think Friday night at the table; that this whole day of Shabbos is a rehearsal for the Next World. It’s a reminder, a twenty-four hour reminder, that this world is only for preparing.
That’s one of the purposes of keeping Shabbos. Every Shabbos should leave over some residue of emunah in the World to Come in our hearts. It creates a frame of mind, an Olam Haba frame of mind, and that mind is the biggest achievement a man could make in this world. Because it means you’re filling your mind now with the daas, the awareness of where you’re going; and you’re ready now for making this world a place where you’re preparing all the time for the real world, the place of hasharas hanefesh.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
Let’s Get Practical
Thinking About the Next World
This Shabbos I will use every seudah as an opportunity to begin creating for myself an Olam Haba mind. I will spend one minute at every seudah utilizing the two me’ein Olam Haba lessons. For thirty seconds I will remind myself about how the oneg Shabbos I’m enjoying now is only a taste of the oneg in Olam Haba. And the next thirty seconds, I will spend thinking about the Olam Haba ideal of ‘whoever prepares before Shabbos, he’s the one who will enjoy Shabbos.’ And then I will, bli neder, review those lessons once a day throughout the coming week.
Tapes: S-8 – Falsehood and Truth | 33 – The World to Come | 198 – The Eyes Mislead | 318 – Splendor of Man | 722 – Shabbos 13: Day of Knowledge | 791 – Ten Aspects of Shabbos | 813 – The Eyes Percieve and Decieve | E-262 – A World of Models
Ugo the Ugly is Caught
Lythbourne, Valundia 5229 – 1469
“Hear ye, hear ye!” came a voice, crying in the distance.
“Ewald,” called a woman who was carrying a large basket of fish. “What is going on?”
Nearby, a man looked up from the well.
“It sounds like a royal proclamation,” replied Ewald. “Come, Fiorella, let’s go see what it’s all about.”
Fiorella put down her basket of fish and hurried with her husband to the town square, where a crowd was gathering. As they approached, they heard the clattering of horse’s hooves coming towards them.
“I was right, Fiorella,” Ewald said. “Look, it’s the royal horses!”
Fifteen large horses rushed into the town square with riders carrying royal banners and the flag of Valundia. It was an impressive sight.
The horses came to a stop and tossed their manes impressively. In the center, sitting atop the largest horse was a royal knight in full armor, carrying a large scroll.
“Hear ye, hear ye!” he cried loudly. “In the name of his majesty the king! It has been so declared, and duly ordered, that the thief who is known as ‘Ugo the Ugly’ shall be put to death!”
The townspeople gasped. They had heard of the atrocious crimes committed by Ugo the Ugly – was he hiding in their town?
“Furthermore,” the knight continued, “the man or woman who shall deliver this thief to the hands of the royal guards, shall be handsomely rewarded by the king himself!”
No sooner had the knight finished reading the royal proclamation than a farmer stumbled into the town square, dragging a man behind him, bound in ropes and mud all over his face.
“I caught him!” announced the farmer. “He was in my barn, trying to steal my chickens!”
The knight leapt off his horse and looked at the man, who was struggling to get free.
“How do we know that it is he?” asked the knight.
“Well, I just told you, he was trying to steal my chickens!” the farmer said, somewhat annoyed.
“Ewald!” Fiorella exclaimed excitedly. “That is the very same man who stole our fish last week!”
“And last week he killed and ate one of my sheep!” another man said angrily.
“Well that is enough evidence for me!” the knight said. “By order of his majesty the king, I order you to death by hanging! The execution shall take place at six o’clock this evening!”
Another gasp filled the town square.
Immediately, two of the guards took off in the direction of the royal palace, while the others tied up their horses and began building a large gallows.
A few hours later the townspeople gathered once again to witness the execution. Ugo the Ugly was led up to the gallows and the executioner prepared the noose.
Suddenly the sound of trumpets were heard, as two royal riders in splendid purple and red coats road into the townsquare, followed by a large ornate chariot.
“Behold!” they cried. “His majesty, the king!”
The townspeople all bowed as King Marzander IV descended from his royal coach.
As the king watched, the knight announced: “In the name of his majesty the king, the execution of the evil Ugo the Ugly shall now commence!”
The executioner did his job, and everyone cheered. But the King had a look of concern on his face as he looked at Ugo hanging from the gallows.
“Remove the mud from his face!” he ordered sharply.
Quickly, the executioner took a rag and wiped the mud off of Ugo’s face. Screams of shock filled the air.
“My brother!” the king exclaimed. “My twin brother Lysandor! You! You were Ugo the Ugly, the worst criminal to ever plague the peaceful nation of Valundia?”
Indeed, Ugo looked exactly like the king! A tear trickled down the king’s face. Everyone, including the royal guards, watched awkwardly, too frightened to say or do anything.
“Take him down!” the king ordered suddenly. “Take him down this instant! It is a disgrace to the kingdom!”
Quickly, the royal guards lowered the body of Ugo / Lysandor from the gallows, covered him with a cloth, and loaded him into the back of the king’s chariot. The king quickly climbed inside and rode off, accompanied by the knight and the guards.
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah tells us that when a Yid chas veshalom needs to be killed by Beis Din, his body is not allowed to be left hanging on display overnight. And the reason is because we are made בְּצֶלֶּם אֱלוֹקִים – in the image of Hashem. It is a terrible disgrace to leave a portrait of Hashem hanging dead for all to see. So Hashem says “take him down, because he looks like Me.”
Have a Wonderful Shabbos!
Takeaway: When we look at the faces of our friends we must think about how they resemble Hashem, and treat them with respect.