• Rabbi Ariel Tal

Insights into Judaism from COVID-19

“In all of your ways you shall know Him (God)” - is one of the key verses in all of the Tanach. Rabbi Avraham HaKohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, explains that this verse teaches us that one must learn from every experience and understand how it can connect them to Judaism and the Torah. In the spirit of this concept, I would like to shed some light into the insights that I have personally learned about Judaism and the mitzvot from our COVID-19 new reality.

#1: What is the next world (Olam Haba)?

Olam Haba, the World to Come, or the World of Neshamot (Souls), is the place where the Neshama goes after it leaves the body in this world. What is the actual difference, from the Neshama’s perspective, between this world and the next world? In one word, the answer is growth. The secret of this world is that every person has the capability to advance themselves spiritually, a uniquely human trait. The descriptions in Kabbalistic literature is that the next world is a static and frozen reality. There is no growth in the next world, rather whatever spiritual level a person attains in this world will be their permanent reality in the next world. As an analogy, suppose one brought a small water dipper to the next world, which has an endless fountain of water flowing. You can only enjoy the water (a parable for spiritual closeness to Hashem) as much as your vessel will hold; so too one can only be as close to Hashem in the next world as enabled by the refinement of their spiritual self in this world. There are famous stories in the Talmud of great Tannaic Sages, like Rabbi Judah the Prince, who said upon their death bed that they would do anything just to do another mitzvah, and continue their spiritual growth, knowing that the next world is reality frozen in time.