All Israel Have A Share In The World To Come, As It Is Stated: "And Your People Are All Righteous; They Shall Inherit The Land Forever. [They Are] The Branch Of My Planting, The Work Of My Hands In Which To Take Pride."
Within the Talmudic writings, there are two interpretations of the phrase "the World to Come":
- Gan Eden - the spiritual realm of souls, the afterlife;
- The Era of the Resurrection.
In this mishnah,
the term obviously refers to the Era of the Resurrection,
for in its source,2 the mishnah
continues: "And these individuals do not have a portion in the World to Come. He who denies that the concept of the resurrection has a source in the Torah...."
Our Sages explain: "He denied the resurrection of the dead; he therefore will not have a share in this resurrection - measure for measure."
Moreover, our Rabbis explain that, with regard to this mishnah, no other interpretation is appropriate. Entry to Gan Eden - the spiritual world of the souls - is restricted, as it is written: "Who may ascend the mount of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart."
For a person's position in the afterlife is a direct result of his conduct in this world; one who has not refined himself will not be found worthy of a portion in the afterlife.
Although the revelations of the Era of the Resurrection will be vastly superior to those of the afterlife, every Jew will receive a portion.
Why? Because the Jews are...
Every Jew's soul is an actual part of G-d.
Therefore, in the Era of the Resurrection when the essential G-dliness that pervades every dimension of our existence will be revealed, this holiness - the fundamental vitality present in every Jew - will emerge.
The prooftext uses material entities - "the branch," "the work" - as analogies to highlight the fact that the Resurrection - the return of the body to this material plane - represents the ultimate reward. For our material world will then be G-d's dwelling. Just as a person reveals the innermost dimensions of his personality only in his own home, so too the essence of G-dliness - those dimensions of His Being that transcend even spiritual existence - will be revealed in our material world.
(Maamar, Kol Yisrael Yesh La'hem Cheilek L'olam Habah, 5733; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 343ff.)
Since every Jew's soul is an actual part of G-d, each and every Jew - man, woman, and child - praises G-d by virtue of his very existence.
"Even the sinners of Israel are filled with mitzvos
as a pomegranate is filled with seeds."
This teaching serves as an introduction to each chapter of Pirkei Avos because Pirkei Avos focuses on ethical development and personal refinement. When one becomes aware of the essential G-dly core of every individual, one appreciates: a) the necessity to refine oneself so that this essential quality can be expressed, and b) that every individual, regardless of his present level of development, has the potential to achieve such refinement.
(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayikra, 5750)
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 60:21.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 10:1.
- (Back to text) R. Ovadiah of Bartenura (and others) on Sanhedrin, ibid., Midrash Shmuel, beginning of Pirkei Avos.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin, ibid., (90a).
- (Back to text) See Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Shlita, Vol. I, p. 148ff, which explains that the mishnah's statement that these individuals will not receive a portion in the World to Come refers only to their bodies; they will not be resurrected. Their souls, however, will be resurrected and live in another body, for every soul is "an actual part of G-d" (Tanya, ch. 2), or to refer to the wording of this mishnah, "the branch of My planting, the work of My hands."
- (Back to text) See the discourse Ki Yishalcha (Sefer HaMaamarim 5700 end of p. 44ff). See also Chagigah 15b which states that were it not for the prayers of R. Meir, Achar would not have entered Gan Eden (i.e., even the lower level of Gan Eden).
- (Back to text) Tehillim 24:3-4.
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 2.
- (Back to text) See Ramban, conclusion of Shaar HaGemul, Likkutei Torah, Tzav 15c.
- (Back to text) Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3; see Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.
- (Back to text) See Sichos Shabbos Mevorchim Nissan, 5750.
- (Back to text) The conclusion of the Tractate of Chagigah.
- (Back to text) One of the reasons Pirkei Avos is studied is to prepare us to relive the experience of the giving of the Torah on the holiday of Shavuos. Ahavas Yisrael was a necessary prerequisite for the giving of the Torah, as Rashi comments on the verse (Shmos 19:2): "And Israel camped before the mountain," "as one man, with one heart." Similarly, every year, we must prepare for the giving of the Torah with an emphasis on Ahavas Yisrael. (See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 262.)