The ideas that goodness and obedience to God’s charges are to be admired and rewarded, and that wrongfulness and disobedience are to be condemned and punished are axiomatic to the faith. It’s asserted, for example, in the second paragraph of Sh’ma Yisrael (Deuteronomy 11:13-21) that goodness will facilitate the bringing on of “the rain of the land in its seasons” and that wrongfulness will encourage God to “stop up the heavens (so) that there be no rain and (so) the land will not yield her fruit”; in the Ten Commandments, where dutifully honoring one’s parents will ensure that “your days will be long upon the earth” (Ex. 20:12); and at many other points.
And the Tradition points to reward and punishment in the Afterlife and in the ultimate World to Come at quite a number of junctures as well — both explicitly as in Pirkei Avot 2:2 which speaks of merit “enduring forever”, and implicitly as in Pesachim 54b where it’s pointed out that despite the fact that one cannot fathom the depths of God’s judgment, Divine Justice does prevail.
We’ll see how Ramchal understands the concept next.
(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).