Partners in Crime

The Midrash says that there were two
reshayim who were
partners in crime their entire lives. One of them died and went to
Gehenom. He was
suffering there for many months, and then he saw his former partner’s neshama
being escorted into Gan
Eden
. So he calls over the
malach appointed
over Gehenom and
says to him: "Listen, there must have been some kind of computer error, because
that guy was my partner. I stole, he stole; I killed, he killed. Whatever I did,
he did, and if he’s in Gan
Eden
, then I’m supposed to be there, too." So the
malach goes and
checks up and comes back and says: "There was no error. He belongs where he is,
and you belong where you are. What happened was, you were such a despicable
person, you dropped dead in the street and your body lay there for three days,
and nobody wanted to bury you. After three days, someone came along and
benevolently kicked your body into a hole by the side of the road, and that was
your burial. When your partner saw this, it made a tremendous impression on him,
and he started to think, "Is that going to be my end?" He re-thought his entire
life and decided to do
teshuvah
. He died a
baal
teshuvah,
so he deserves to be in Gan
Eden
, and you deserve to be in
Gehenom."

So the guy says, “Teshuvah? I’ll do teshuvah. I really
regret doing everything I did. If I had known where I was going to end up, I
never would have done it. I guarantee I’ll never do it again.”

The
Malach
says, “Sorry, but it’s a little late. You should know that the
world you came from is like Erev Shabbos, and the world you’re in now is like
Shabbos. If somebody prepares on Erev Shabbos, he has what to eat on Shabbos.
But if he sleeps the whole Erev Shabbos, when Shabbos comes, it’s too late.
Similarly, the world you came from is like the dry land, and the world you’re in
now is like the sea. If you prepare your boat on the dry land with supplies,
you’ll have what to eat in the middle of the ocean. If not, and you sailed
empty, there are no supermarkets in the middle of the ocean. Likewise, the world
you came from is like the city, and the world you’re in now is like the desert.
If you prepare in the city, you can survive in the desert. If you don’t, you’ll
be in the middle of the desert without a survival kit."

I have two questions on this Midrash: In Pirkei Avos
there’s also an analogy between this world and the next world. This world is
like a preparation room to a castle. Prepare in the preparation room in order
that you may enter the castle. Why didn’t the
malach tell him that
mishna. It’s a much
more authoritative source. Secondly, why was it necessary to give him
three analogies?

The real Torah
hashkafa regarding
this world and the next is that this world is like a preparation room to a
castle. The implication being that there is absolutely no other purpose for this
world other than to prepare for the next. In this world we have the opportunity
to create an eternal bond with HaShem, which is to become the pleasure of
olam haba. That is
the only purpose of life in this world.

That’s the analogy of the preparation room to the castle.
It’s only purpose is
to prepare to enter the castle. But a
rasha has no concept
of it. So the malach
tells him that he could have understood another aspect of it. This world is like
Erev Shabbos and the
next world is like Shabbos.
The purpose of Erev Shabbos
is not only for
Shabbos
. You do things on
Erev Shabbos which
are not for Shabbos; but the majority of things on
Erev Shabbos are for
Shabbos. Even if he
believed that this world has some intrinsic value, he could still have used most
of this world for the next. And if he didn’t understand that, and in his mind
this world and the next were equal, like the land and the sea, he still could
have paid some attention to the next world, which, like the sea is also
important. Why didn’t he prepare his ship for the journey? And if even that was
beyond him, and he believed that this world is the main thing, and the next
world was worthless, useless, like a desert; he still knew that someday he was
going to leave this world and enter the next. If even that didn’t interest him,
then he deserved to be where he was.