Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prepare Yourself for the Banquet

"I am an alien and a resident among you" [Chayei Sarah 23:4]

What is the meaning, asked the Dubno Maggid, of the expression "alien and resident"?  An alien is a person who resides in a land temporarily, while a resident's status is a permanent one.  An alien, therefore, is not a resident, nor is a resident an alien.

The answer, said the Maggid, is as follows:  Chazal comment on the verse "For you are aliens and residents with Me" [Vayikra 25:23] - "This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall." [Avos 4:21]

Each individual is required to prepare himself for his eternal residence in the World to Come by performing mitzvos and good deeds in this world, his temporary dwelling.  Thus Avraham Avinu was saying "I am both an alien and a resident; I am an alien temporarily living in the world before I will become a permanent resident of the World to Come."

The Chofetz Chaim illustrated this idea by way of the following parable: There was a very wealthy man who wished to build himself a luxurious house. He contracted an architect who began to draw blueprints for the future home.

"It is very important to me" said the wealthy man to the architect, "that the living room be spacious and comfortable. Yet it is also important that the hallway leading to the living room be very large as well."

The architect took the necessary measurements and began to tell the man what he thought. "There is most certainly not going to be enough space for both the living room and the hallway to be large and roomy. You are going to have to make a decision - do you want a spacious living room or a spacious hallway?"

"I'll give you a bit of advice." continued the architect.  "Being that the prevailing custom is to make the living room as large as possible and not to invest very much in the hallway, I'd suggest that you do the same. It would be ridiculous to do the opposite and make the hallway larger than the living room.  After all, you don't want people to laugh at you."

So it is with us, said the Chofetz Chaim. Our duty in this world is to prepare ourselves for the eternal life, so that our portion in the World to Come will be as great as possible. How are we supposed to do this? By living our lives according to the Torah and by performing the mitzvos.

How foolish is the man whose sole concern is to ensure himself a comfortable life in this world. He is comparable to the wealthy man who requests a large hallway but a small living room. When he arrives in the World to Come everyone will laugh at him!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

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