Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Masking Holiness, Part II

Chapter 3, Mishna 15(b)

"Rabbi Elazar of Moda said: One who desecrates sacred objects, one who disgraces the festivals, one who shames his fellow in public, one who annuls the covenant of our forefather Abraham, or one who interprets the Torah not according to Jewish law -- even if he has Torah [study] and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come."

Last week we discussed the five shortcomings listed in our mishna and the severity of each one. This week I would like to penetrate beneath the surface -- to examine the common thread running through these five concepts and the true significance of each. We will then hopefully begin to appreciate the justness of R. Elazar's condemnation.

In truth, there is a deep philosophical difficulty with our mishna. R. Elazar states that even if such a person has studied Torah and performed good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come. But where is the justice in this? What about all the good deeds this person *has* performed? No matter how terrible desecrating sacred Temple objects is, isn't it possible that this fellow's good deeds outweigh his evil? Isn't the 11th of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith that G-d rewards and punishes for each and every one of man's actions? If so, how can our mishna so unequivocally state that such a person receives no share of Eternity? Will his good deeds simply be cast aside, not even considered on the heavenly scales?

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