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I remember asking about the limitations of the Rabbinical rulings, based on "לא בשמים היא" within Judaism.

After other questions dealt with deciding whether Gentiles in general or any specific group (the Samaritans) is entitled to a piece in our World to Come (WtC), I came up with the question of the validity of our speculations.

It seems that those two belong to two different domains - one is what our Sages are allowed to deal with (this world) and what will always remain G-d's domain (WtC).

I would speculate that in this relativistic world, G-d "does not care" what the Halachah says only that people follow it (like that the Sages ruled that משיכה buys instead of G-d's כסף) but in the WtC who can limit G-d to think we know better?

Hence the question: as our scriptures do not deal almost completely with the questions of the WtC and everything we know about the WtC is Rabbinical thinking how valid are those and how obligating are they to G-d?

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    I don't understand this. VTC as Unclear? – Double AA Jul 19 at 15:40
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    Rabbis don’t initiate anything. Rabbis interpret the Torah God gave us. – LN6595 Jul 19 at 15:49
  • Why are you specifically asking regarding non Jews? Isn't the question the same about Jews? – robev Jul 19 at 23:26
  • @LN6595 Unfortunately you're largely mistaken, consider the principle of לא בשמים היא - they rule thing on their own. Moreover many agree that the oral tradition was lost as Rabbis 'reinvented" the interpretations based on "Ruach Hakodesh" or something. – Al Berko Jul 20 at 22:28
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    @AlBerko I believe you are greatly mistaken in your understanding. But that is a subject of a new question. – LN6595 Jul 21 at 14:11
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In Taanis 29a and Avodah Zarah 18a, Rabban Gamliel and R' Chanina ben Tradyon swear to non-Jews that they'll get them into the World to Come. "Swearing" to do so seems pretty well to indicate that they have that power, otherwise they'd be taking the chance of violating the issur of a false oath.**

There's also a Gemara in Sanhedrin (104b) that tells how the Chachomim wanted to add "another one" (Rashi says it was Shlomo) to the list of those who lost their place in Olam Haba, and Hashem had to prevent them from doing so. The implication seems to be that had they decided after all that he's on the list, then Hashem would (so to speak) be constrained to follow their decision.

See also Chagigah 15b, where Acher is "in limbo" (the Heavenly Court won't send him to either the World to Come or to "judgment" (Gehinnom)), until first R' Meir intervenes to get him sent to judgment, and later R' Yochanan intervenes to get him to the World to Come.

Still more examples: Eruvin 54b, where Rav Preida gets "myself and my entire generation" into the World to Come. Also in Sanhedrin 106b, Hashem (so to speak) "consults" with David about whether Doeg should get into the World to Come, and David rejects the idea.


** OK, so maybe it wouldn't technically violate that, since it would be a case of oness. I still would think that these Sages wouldn't put themselves in a situation where they might be compelled to break their word.

  • Interesting thought. – Turk Hill Jul 19 at 21:18
  • I just read that the Chofetz Chaim (brought in Dugma MiSichos Avi p. 61) made the same observation about the gemarra in Sanhedrin – robev Jul 19 at 21:51
  • @robev Thanks. Which one, the one about the Chachamim and Shlomo, or about David and Doeg? – Meir Jul 19 at 22:16
  • I wrote that before I saw your edit. About shlomo – robev Jul 19 at 23:26
  • Thank you for the sources. I'd like to join the 3 answers into one understanding - Rabbis offered their personal views on this subject, which are not Halachic but purely motivational. They do not have any real power to impose any limitations on G-d. – Al Berko Jul 20 at 22:56
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The Mishnah in Sanhedrin 10:3 discusses whether certain groups of people have a share in the world to come. In his commentary there, Rambam writes as follows:

כבר זכרתי לך פעמים רבות שכל מחלוקת שיהיה בין החכמים שאינו בא לידי מעשה אלא שהוא אמונת דבר בלבד אין צד לפסוק הלכה כאחד מהם

I have already mentioned many times that any dispute between the Sages that does not affect practice, but is merely a factual question, there is no way to rule halacha in accordance with one of them.

I would argue that Rambam is essentially saying that the Sages can tell you what the law is in a given case, but they can’t determine the reality. Since the status of one’s share in the world to come is not a question of law, it is simply beyond the purview of the Sages.

  • +1, but I don't think that reading of Rambam is correct. Seems to me that he's saying that whatever he paskens on this subject is irrelevant to us, but not necessarily that it's irrelevant to Hashem. – Meir Jul 19 at 20:40
  • @Meir Why would it be irrelevant to us? – Alex Jul 19 at 20:43
  • OK, you're right, "irrelevant" is the wrong word. I meant that we have no way of knowing which opinion was actually followed by the Beis Din Shel Maalah. – Meir Jul 19 at 20:44
  • @Meir Doesn’t that itself mean that Heaven doesn’t have to care what the Sages say? – Alex Jul 19 at 20:48
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    @Meir Could be. Though he doesn’t say that he doesn’t want to pasken; he says that there is no way to pasken such a question (although Kapach’s translation as אין מקום לפסוק is slightly less definitive). – Alex Jul 19 at 21:45
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This will be a personal answer.

I do not believe Rabbis can determine whether anyone has a share in the next world. However, I do think the claims Rabbis make about who goes and doesn't get a share in the next world serve a great purpose.

Religion in general has the Job problem, which is, why do bad things happen to good/religious people? Despite us all knowing the story of Job and knowing he was righteous and God Himself declaring that Job was right to his doubting friends, we still have a tendency to believe/say that good things will happen to the righteous, and bad things will happen to the unrighteous. We can't know the will of God, or why God allows certain things to happen to certain people, but we fall into the temptation of assuming things about people one way or another. As humans we like to think that our actions have value, therefore keeping kashrut might initially be "because I want to serve Hashem," but eventually might turn into "it helps guarantee my place in the world to come." The next step after that is "someone who doesn't do it might not get a place in the world to come." This kind of thinking or logic isn't beneficial, and is problematic thelogically and religiously.

I believe this last type of thinking is something the sages often try to address. While many Jews might be tempted to think or believe that non Jews who don't follow all the laws won't get a share in the world to come, the truth is we don't really know and the Tanakh doesn't make it clear one way or the other. The Rabbis come in to say "Yes! Non Jews have a place in the world to come! They just have to follow these few Noahide moral laws." Do I believe that this statement by the Rabbis binds the hands of God who must now allow Noahides into the world to come? No.

Do I believe this statement comes to teach us that we shouldn't try and say or even believe that Non Jews don't have a share in the world to come? Yes.

  • Thank you. I tend to agree with you personally. I make a clear distinction between factual and motivational Rabbinical statements. If I understood you right, claims about the WTC are purely motivational, endorsing a person to engage in certain activities here. Based on Alex's answer, non-Halachic statements are undecidable and therefore of little value. – Al Berko Jul 20 at 22:48

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