What is the relationship between goodness, kindness, selflessness -- and
material success? Does goodness lead to health and prosperity? This question, at
the heart of mankind's search for meaning, is frequently discussed in Jewish
The Torah presents us with a firm statement on this subject: "If you
walk in My statutes, I will provide you with rain at the right time and the land
will bear its crops and the trees will provide fruit... You will live securely
in the land... But if you do not listen to Me and do not keep these laws... You
will plant your crops in vain, because your enemies will eat them... you will
flee even when no-one is chasing you..." (Leviticus Ch. 26).
In a few brush strokes, so to speak, these passages outline two pictures: one
of "Redemption", i.e., national and individual wholeness, the other of
galut ("exile") - fragmentation and conflict.
The first picture, that of Redemption, depicts a state of union between the
spiritual and physical aspects of life. A good action produces a good effect in
the material world. Body and soul are in harmony on every level of being. The
people serve G-d, and therefore the crops grow and there is peace. Life has
The second picture, that of galut, comes as a punishment. Yet the state of
galut is not simply punishment and suffering, but chaos. Galut is the
separation of spirit from matter.
In the situation of galut the goodness of the individual, or of the
community, may well not be rewarded in immediate material terms. Sometimes the
crops will grow, sometimes not. Even if they do grow, sometimes the enemy will
capture them. There is constant uncertainty. Galut is a dislocation between
matter and spirit, body and soul. Good people might be stricken with horrifying
disease and pain; the wicked often seem to enjoy peace and prosperity.
On a deeper level, even in the state of galut there is a relationship between
one's actions and the events which follow. Yet it is governed by an infinite
Divine logic not completely accessible to our minds. To understand it we would
have to be able to take into account spiritual realms, the world of souls. We
would have to be able to appreciate certain processes in existence which have to
unfold. If the full spiritual panorama were accessible to us, we would indeed
see precise reward for each individual action. But this is not apparent in the
physical world which we see before our eyes.
Yet the fact that we know that there is a deeper reality is itself a step
forward. Although we are living in the world of galut so harshly depicted in the
"Rebuke" outlined in Leviticus, a world in which the Holocaust
could take place, we can be conscious that waiting beyond the shadows is another
way to live, the world of Redemption. And in the closing verses of the
Rebuke the Torah promises that Redemption is the state we should be
in, and the one to which we will return.
Hence we should do what we can to help our practical daily world attain that
state in which soul and body, spirit and matter, G-d and existence are one,
unified. Every step in observance of Torah brings that realm of Redemption