Jewish Reward and Punishment

Jewish Reward and Punishment

Does your diety punish and reward in this life?

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA, head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa, hosts Sunday Night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

This is a tricky question on many fronts. You refer to "your deity." I guess you mean God, or more accurately, my God. By my God is everyone's God. We pray to God Who created the world and populated that world.

As to punish and reward, I can give you a theorectical answer, but you must know in advance that this does not explain every triumph or calamity. We do not know the exact reason for everything that happens. Further, what seems to us as punishment or reward may actually have different intent.

Judaism affirms the reality of a world beyond this world, a world in which the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished.

But you asked about this world, so why am I mixing you up? Because the future world reality affects this world. Take the righteous. They may be righteous, but they also may have sinned in some way. In order for the righteous to have a clear path to the future world, God may purge the sins so that the righteous slate is clean, and ready for an uninterrupted sojourn of spiritual bliss in the future world.

This means that when one sees a righteous person suffering, it is harsh medicine for good reasons. The same is true, in this paradigm of the wicked, whose good deeds are rewarded in this world so that their slate is perfect in the other direction when going down to you-know-where, and there is no reward owed to them.

This model looks deceptively simple. There is much more to it, but it adds up to the very critical notion that for all that unfolds in this world, we really do not know the whys and the wherefores.

In addition, there is the notion of reward for the fulfilment of vital obligations, such as for charity and honouring one's parents. Often, it is difficult to really know whether we are dealing with reward and punishment, or the natural consequence of kind or cruel deeds.

The bottom line is that we should embrace the good unconditionally, and trust God to look after the rest.

Jewish Reward

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