Thursday, January 21, 2010

So how exactly does olam haba work? (And a theodicy rebuttal)

This isn't going to be long, detailed, or philosophical. I have just one question: What makes olam haba so great?

According to the first mishna of the tenth chapter of Sanhedrin, all of Israel has a share in the world to come. Though some of Israel are subsequently excluded, the jerks are not. So if the small, stupid, annoying and cruel of Israel are all assured a place in the world to come, doesn't it follow that the world-to-come is as unpleasant as this one is? In heaven, what keeps the obnoxious of Israel in check? What prevents them from doing the same terrible things up there as they do down here?

I see one answer: In heaven we have no free will.

But if the ideal state is a state where freedom is severely curtailed or non-existent, why were we given free will at all?

One theodicy (i.e. a justification for the existence of evil) is that free will makes our relationship with God morally meaningful. It's how we "develop a relationship" with him, or "get close to him"  Free will, to defenders of this theodicy, is necessary because without it we'd have no way to grow or to contract in our relationship with God. However, on earth our exercise of free often causes pain and suffering, pain and suffering that in heaven will miraculously wiped away. If our place in heaven is assured - as the Mishna promises - why does God put us through this? Why does He provide us with  free will and encourage us to develop our capacity to make moral choices when it none of that will be needed in heaven? Why does he permit us to torture each other via the use of our free will if after 70 or 80 odd years all of it - the pain together with the power to make choices - is just going to be erased?

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