you follow My laws and are careful to keep My commandments,
I will provide you with rain at the right time so that the
land will bear its crops and the trees of the field will
provide fruit. (26:3-4). The Torah goes on to describe
a series of material rewards that will be our lot provided
we properly observe the laws of the Torah. While good crops, lots of grapes, plenty of food and even a good
nights sleep are all very nice is this the ultimate reward for keeping the Torah? Why is there no mention of rewards in the spiritual realm of life? Why is no mention made of olam haba, the world to come?
This pattern of only mentioning material blessings continues throughout the Bible. Probably the most famous example is that which we recite everyday in the second paragraph of the Shma. We read about rain in its proper time, forage in the fields and food for our animals. Is the Torah just describing the rewards that most people (think they) really want? Perhaps the Torah recognizes how few people have as their ultimate wish feeling closer to G-d. Truth be told material blessings are wonderful and that is exactly what the Torah is telling us. G-d wants us to physically enjoy this world. Even in the realm of Jewish ritual law we often find that the monetary impact is an important one to weigh before reaching a proper ruling. The Torah had pity on the money of Israel our Sages teach.
The Rambam while acknowledging the inherent value of material rewards argues that the true blessings are spiritual ones, with the material blessings bein ans to that end. One who is hungry, tired and is at war finds it quite difficult to concentrate on spirituality. Their only concern in such a situation is self-preservation. Material blessing asserts Maimonides afford us the possibility of growing spirituality. With our basic needs taken care of we can focus our energies on learning Torah study, helping others, community building and the search for philosophical truth. But why does the Torah not even mention the spiritual reward?
The Torah in leaving the description of the world to come to our Sages is teaching us a crucial lesson. The Talmud relates that when Moshe ascended Har Sinai to receive the Torah the angels challenged his right to receive the Torah. After all, they argued why should man who is so engrossed in sin have an opportunity to ignore so much of the sacred Torah. Moshe answered that this is precisely why we need the Torah. The Torah is our guide on how to control and properly focus our natural tendencies of sexual flirtation, money, jealousy, slander and the like. We need Torah, Moshe answered, to prevent us from even greater sinning, to help make us better people. The angels, and even G-d Himself, impressed with the answer Moshe provided willingly let him take the Torah from the safety of heaven to earth where it is most needed. Torah is thus only meant for the physical world, to imbue holiness in the mundane, to sanctify and uplift. Thus to talk about spiritual rewards would be outside the realm of Torah. Those concerns are for G-d and for G-d alone. It is not for us to dwell on the next world or even when the messianic period will happen in this world. Not only cant physical man relate to a world devoid of physicality we should not even try. Our concern must be on tikkun olam making this world a better place. And that can only be done in the material world. If we do our part then G-d will do His and at the proper time we will be blessed with the ultimate reward where the righteous will sit with crowns on their head delighting in the Divine presence. Shabbat Shalom!