“Hell is truth seen too late, duty neglected in its season.” -Tryon Edwards
The text of the Torah doesn’t deal much with the idea of an afterlife. It is focused on the here and now. Rewards and punishments are described in very concrete, physical and material terms.
On the other hand, descriptions of the spiritual realm and the afterlife are part of the Oral Tradition and are expanded upon greatly by sages and Rabbis for millennia. There seems to be widespread agreement that there is some aspect of the afterlife (hell, purgatory, take your pick) that is the physical equivalent to being burned alive.
The Ohr Hachayim (Leviticus 26:16) finds hints to otherworldly punishments in the biblical text. He claims that besides the fiery doom, there is an obstruction of “vision” (whatever that means in the afterlife) and a concomitant wretchedness. However, the text also provides the means of protection from the flames of hell as well as from the other punishments.
The protection is unsurprisingly simple: The Torah. The Ohr Hachayim promises that the flames of Torah study are greater in strength than the flames of hell and will protect its students. Furthermore, the study of Torah “brightens” the eye and will clear any obstructions of vision in the netherworld and finally, knowledge of the Torah is joyous and will dispel any future misery.
Fire-proof, bright-eyed and happy – sounds good to me.
To Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and Tom Rob Smith (Child 44), two incredible writers and gracious authors who I had the great pleasure of meeting this week at the International Writer’s Festival in Jerusalem.