Up for Debate

This module contains one key debate amongst the various classical commentaries of Chumash. 

 

A major portion of Parshat Bechukotai is dedicated to spelling out the consequences of our actions. The Torah vividly describes how following God’s commandments will result in material prosperity and healthy lives, while abandoning the Torah will lead to hunger, war and plagues.

 

The commentators grapple with a major question about these descriptions. Judaism very clearly believes that the main reward and punishment happens to a person after death in the World-to-Come. This spiritual reward isn’t a major focus anywhere in our Parsha. Why does the Torah frame reward and punishment only in terms of physical rewards in this world. Why doesn’t the Torah promise eternal spiritual bliss instead?

 

The Ibn Ezra offers the simplest answer. He simply says that we as mortal people cannot grasp what the World-to-Come will even look like. Therefore, there is no point in the Torah describing it to us. The Torah sticks to rewards that we have a chance of appreciating even if they are not the main ones. The Rambam says that the health and material prosperity promised in our parsha aren’t rewards at all. All the Torah is saying is that if we express a desire to serve God, God will help be removing impediments such as disease and poverty to enable us to continue serving God. The Ramban answers that we receive reward both in this world and in the next. However, the Torah chose to focus on the less obvious of the two rewards. It makes sense that someone who excels spiritually will receive a spiritual reward. It is a major miracle that the rules of nature would change based on a person’s spiritual stature. It is this miracle that the Torah emphasizes.