Selling Olam Haba

Earlier this week, my wife made a comment about something that she’s currently negotiating, saying that she wants to get a specific thing accomplished and would give a certain person and reward she might get in Olam Haba as long as she does the thing on her own.

I said that was funny. She said she was serious. I said that’s what makes it funny. She asked why.

I asked her if she really thinks that Olam Haba is a commodity that can be bought, sold, or traded. She accused me of not believing in Olam Haba.

I responded that I did, but not in an Olam Haba that can be bought or sold. I used the example of memory; can one transfer his memories to someone else? Can they be exchanged? Same kinda thing. I don’t know exactly what the afterlife is, but I tend to think that it forms an organic whole with this life, that some sense of consciousness or identity remains after bodily demise.

I also sense that this is the meaning behind certain statements that make light of the cause-effect relationship between mitzvot and their reward, statements like “Torah is so geschmak that it’s worth going to Gehinnom for.” It’s a sense of humor which downplays the role of Olam Haba in everyday decisions and also jokes about the causality between actions in this world and their results in the next.

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