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The tractate of Sanhedrin details the laws applicable to the hierarchal Jewish judicial system, as well as the various penalties – monetary, corporeal and capital – at its disposal. The final chapter of the tractate, known simply as Chelek, starts with the statement: "Every Israelite has a portion in the World to Come..." After discussing all the punishments meted out by the courts, the Mishnah emphasizes that no matter the severity of the crime, every Jew has a portion in the World to Come.

The Mishnah then enumerates several egregious sins which can cause a person to lose his portion in the World to Come.1 The last Mishnah of the tractate discusses the members of the ir hanidachas, the "condemned city"—stating that they, too, have no portion in the World to Come.

The Talmud launches into a discussion regarding the condemned city, and juxtaposes it with Jericho, which was also "condemned" (Joshua 6:26): "Cursed be before G‑d the man that rises up and builds this city." Nevertheless, this city was rebuilt by Hiel the Bethelite (Kings I 16:34), who paid dearly for this transgression—all his sons died.

The Talmud recounts that Elijah and King Ahab went to pay a call to the grieving Hiel. During the course of this visit, Elijah proclaimed to the idolatrous Ahab (ibid. 17:1): "As G‑d, the G‑d of Israel, whom I serve, lives, [I swear that] there will [not] be during these years dew or rain except according to my word." This launched years of famine, which culminated with the famous contest on Mt. Carmel (see ibid. ch. 17-18).

Rabbi Yosi taught in Tzipori: the great Elijah had a critical personality—as evidenced by the fact that, when he was slighted, he swore to Ahab that no rain would descend upon Israel.

Elijah would visit Rabbi Yosi's study hall every day,2 but for the following three days he did not appear. When he finally did appear, Rabbi Yosi inquired as for the reason for his absence.

"You called me a person with a critical nature," Elijah responded.

"This, too, that you did not appear," Rabbi Yosi responded, "is because you are critical..."

Quote from the Mishnah: "'And nothing that is doomed to destruction [in the condemned city] shall cling to your hand' (Deuteronomy 13:18). As long as wicked people populate the world, there is [G‑d's] wrath in the world..."

Who are the wicked? Rabbi Yosef said these are thieves.

Our Rabbis taught:

When a wicked person enters the world, wrath comes to the world, as it is stated (Proverbs 18:3), "When a wicked man comes, there also comes contempt; and with one who acts disdainfully, comes disgrace."

When the world is rid of a wicked person, good comes to the world, as it is stated (ibid. 11:10), "When the wicked perish, there is song."

When a righteous person leaves the world, travail enters the world, as it is stated (Isaiah 57:1), "The righteous man has perished, but no one takes it to heart, and men of kindness are taken away, with no one understanding that because of [lit. before] the evil the righteous man has been taken away." A righteous person is taken from this world before evil comes to pass, so that he will not have to experience it.

When a righteous person enters the world, good comes to the world, as it is stated regarding the birth of the righteous Noah (Genesis 5:29): "This one will give us rest from our work and from the painful toil of our hands."