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Every Jew A Tzaddik

This week we begin saying Pirkei Avos, which is preceded by the Mishnah “Kol yisrael yesh lahem chelek le’olam haba,” so we will share an explanation pertaining to this Mishnah.

What is olam haba? Olam haba can refer to one of two things. First, it can refer to gan eden. Gan eden exists now as well; nonetheless, it is called olam haba—“the World to Come,” because it follows the lifelong avodah of Torah and mitzvos of each individual person. According to this explanation, olam haba exists now, before the coming of Moshiach.

This is consistent with what we say during the Shabbos davening, “ein aroch lecha … ba’olam hazeh”—the present world, “ve’ein zulascha … lechayei ha’olam haba”—gan eden, followed by “efes biltecha … limos hamoshiach” and “ve’ein domeh lecha … litchiyas hameisim.”

But olam haba can also refer to techiyas hameisim, which has yet to transpire. Which olam haba is our Mishnah referring to?

Better Than Gan Eden

This can be deduced from the gemara, which explains why those who deny techiyas hameisim will not merit olam haba (as the Mishnah continues to say): “Being that he denied the existence of techiyas hameisim, he will in turn be denied a portion in it.” From this we see that the olam haba of our Mishnah is techiyas hameisim. And regarding techiyas hameisim the Mishnah says that “all Jews have a portion in olam haba,” although this is not necessarily the case with regard to gan eden.

This requires explanation. Techiyas hameisim is much higher than gan eden, as evidenced by the fact that souls who have spent thousands of years in gan eden will be resurrected. One would not dare to say that their resurrection will consist of a descent in their status! How can it then be that not everyone merits gan eden, yet every Jew has a portion in techiyas hameisim?

The Rebbe explains that the Mishnah itself answers this question by quoting the possuk “Ve’ameich kulam tzadikim le’olam yirshu aretz.” According to the simple meaning, this possuk is a proof that all Jews—“Your entire nation”—will “inherit the land,” i.e., olam haba. But it actually also provides an explanation as to why all Jews will merit techiyas hameisim.

What is Reward?

To explain this, we must first explain the concept of divine reward for Torah and mitzvos. When a person studies, say, the Mishnah of shenayim ochazin betalis, he only understands the simple meaning of the Mishnah. In gan eden, by contrast, the Mishnah is studied on an infinitely deeper level. But through studying it now according to its basic interpretation, one will ultimately merit to grasp the unlimited depth contained within. He thus “takes” what he has learnt with him to gan eden and merits to plumb its true depth.

Similarly, when a person fulfills a mitzvah, he elicits tremendous giluyim, but he cannot feel them. But ultimately he will merit to see what he has accomplished. And this is the reward for Torah and mitzvos. Unlike physical compensation, where the labor and compensation are two unrelated entities, “schar mitzvah mitzvah”—the reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself, i.e., to appreciate the tzavsa ve’chibur, the connection with Hashem that was accomplished through it, and similarly by Torah as well.

Full of Mitzvos

Now, the reward for Torah study is primarily in gan eden, as Chazal relate that souls in gan eden study the spiritual meaning of Torah, while the reward for performing mitzvos will be revealed by techiyas hameisim.

Which explains why everyone will merit techiyas hameisim, while not all receive the reward of gan eden: When it comes to Torah study, some individuals study more, some less, and others, not at all. But regarding mitzvos Chazal say that “even sinners are full of mitzvos like a pomegranate,” and the Rebbe explains this to mean that the mitzvos permeate their entire existence (“melei’im mitzvos”), leaving no part of him unaffected, whether he feels it or not. So therefore all Jews will merit the reward of performing mitzvos, which is techiyas hameisim.

This also explains why gan eden is a place where souls are found without physical bodies, while techiyas hameisim is a time when souls will reenter their bodies. Seemingly, a soul unrestricted by a body should be able to grasp much more than a soul found within a body. Even a body that is purified and refined—as will be by techiyas hameisim— is not as high as the soul itself! So how is it that techiyas hameisim, which is higher than gan eden, will be characterized by souls clothed in bodies?!

This can be understood based on the above, that gan eden is the reward for studying Torah, while techiyas hameisim is the reward for fulfilling mitzvos. The majority of mitzvos are physical actions that are performed with the body, while Torah is connected primarily with one’s soul; accordingly, the reward for mitzvos will be received by souls clothed in bodies, while gan eden is frequented by souls without bodies.

The Power of a Mitzvah

We can now understand the meaning of the possuk cited in the Mishnah: Why is it that “they will inherit the land [=techiyas hameisim]”? Because “your nation are all tzadikim.” Mitzvos are called “tzedakah,” as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya (Ch. 37) at length. It thus follows that a tzadik is one who performs mitzvos (tzadakah). So being that all Jews are tzadikim, meaning that they all perform mitzvos, they will all merit techiyas hameisim. Why, indeed, do all Jews perform mitzvos? Being that mitzvos are so vital for a Jew, Hashem orchestrated things in such a way that all Jews perform them.

Based on the above, we can understand why “mitzvah goreres mitzvah”—one mitzvah leads to another. Some say: “What’s the difference if you help another Jew perform a single mitzvah? It’s only one mitzvah, so what’s the big deal!” But the truth is that every Jew is “melei’im mitzvos”; the mitzvah permeates his very existence, leading him to fulfill another mitzvah, and yet another, until he becomes a fully observant Jew. 

For further learning see ד"ה כל ישראל תשל"ג - תו"מ סה"מ מלוקט ח"ג.