Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bread of Embarrassment

At some point in a person's life, s/he asks why s/he is here. The answer is different for each individual person, but the reason we, as a world, are here is the same: so Hashem can do good for us. Hashem is the מיטיב. All He wants is to give to us.

If that's the case (and it is, according to the מסילת ישרים, I think), why do we need to come down to this world at all? Why can't our neshomahs go straight to Gan Eden? The answer, according to whichever teacher I heard this from, is that if we would just go straight to Gan Eden, it would be like we were eating נהמא דכיסופא (excuse my spelling), bread of embarrassment. Better we should come down to this world and earn our portions in the world to come than just be given it.

I never fully understood this. Who cares if Hashem just gives it to us? I don't think I would mind if Hashem gave me a present of עולם הבא. This past Thursday I had an experience that helped me understand:

I was giving my friend (L) a ride home after our last finals. We had both just bombed the last test and were very upset about it. L's sister got married tonight. Since she (L) is a very good student who works really, really hard to keep up her GPA, she was determined not to let her grades suffer because of the simcha. After this particular final, she realized that it had. After figuring out her average in the class, she realized that she was at the high end of a B+. Her prof is a very nice man, and he said that he would raise her grade to an A- because she is so studious. While this was very nice of the teacher, L was still upset. When I asked her why, she said it was because she didn't deserve it. Even though she had worked really hard in the class, because she messed up on the final, she felt that she wasn't worthy of getting that A-.

Imagine how much worse she would've felt if she hadn't worked all year, but the teacher still decided to give her an A-! It's the same with עולם הבא. If we would get it as a gift, it wouldn't feel right because we wouldn't have earned it.

Thank you, Hashem, for giving me the opportunity to "pay my way" to עולם הבא.


Staying Afloat said...

Beautiful analogy. I read (or heard?) recently that when a boy becomes bar mitzvah, he is a gadol in all things except one- he can't sell property inherited from his father. This is because he hasn't worked for it, so he can't properly evaluate its worth.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

" we were eating נעמא דכסופא (excuse my spelling)"- נהמא דכיסופא, but not so bad for a 20 year old bais yaakov girl. ; )

(In regards to the idea of the post, while it is obviously quite correct, it can be said that they're being presenting in somewhat of an overly simplistic manner. It is no waste of time to read through the beginnings of Mesilat Yesharim and Derech Hashem to see how things are presented there..)

MusingMaidel said...


sshriki - hey, I never said this was going to be profound. I actually did learn the beginning of derech hashem, but I don't remember exactly what the ramchal said about it - I hereby give you permission to elaborate in another comment :). Also, thanks for the correction. I'm going to change it right now.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Oh, why thank you.

First of all, you still have "nahana" written there. Just thought I'd mention that..

Well, the main thing that struck me is that you're giving the impression that the actual goal is olam habah, i.e. reward, which it obviously isn't.

This actually works well with your grade example: You gave the impression that the most important thing for your friend is the grade she ends up with, ..which is the most important thing for me as well, but actually the true point of a good liberal arts and sciences education is not to get good marks, but to gain a broad understanding in many different branches of knowledge, aside from the subject you're majoring in. No matter how much Touro would have you believe otherwise, the University course system was created by wise people with the students best interest in mind. Theoretically grades 'should' serve only as a token representation of how well you retained the material.

Same is true for olam habah: The purpose of life is the actual striving for perfection, not "doing what it takes to get olam habah".

So basically: The reason G-d doesn't give out the "free bread" of olam habah is not because he's afraid you'll "feel bad", but because if He did there would literally not have been any purpose in creating anything.

If you want to see it:

Staying Afloat said...

I linked you in my latest post.

MusingMaidel said...

The "nahana" was simply a typo. My typing isn't as accurate in Hebrew as in English, and I didn't notice the mistake.

Thank you for clarifying. I didn't mean to make it sound like getting to Olam Habah is the only goal in life. But, "Mitoch sh'lo lishmoh, bah lishmoh" (I would've written this in Hebrew letters, but this computer doesn't have it - sorry)

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Interesting comparison, that really gives me something to think about. Thanks for pointing that out.

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