By the Merit of Torah, the Jewish People are Above Nature
It is written, “Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand; and your enemies will fall before you by the sword” (Leviticus 26:8). We learn from this passage that when the Children of Israel are connected to Torah and mitzvot, they are conferred supernatural power, to the point that five of them can pursue a hundred, and a hundred of them ten thousand. However when they are far from Torah and mitzvot, a single non-Jew can pursue a hundred Jews. Because of our many sins, we saw this occur in Nazi Germany and Poland, when a single German guarded a hundred Jews without any fear, and when only two Germans guarded an entire camp of Jews, who were paralyzed and had no strength to even raise their heads.
When Jews follow G-d’s ways, the nations of the world view them with appropriate respect and esteem, which brings about a sanctification of G-d’s Name. The nations of the world recognize that it is by the merit of Israel that the world survives and receives abundance (Yerushalmi Gittin, end of ch.5). Yet when Jews leave the straight path, the nations suddenly get the impression that they are numerous. As a result, when Jews attach themselves to G-d and His mitzvot, they are above nature and no one can harm them. One Jew can then pursue a thousand non-Jews, and a hundred of them ten thousand.
If our understanding of this is correct, we may add that when the Jewish people pursue the straight path, G-d introduces a supernatural element into nature and raises Jews above it. In fact it is written, “For even a thousand years in Your eyes are but a bygone yesterday” (Psalms 90:4), a verse that the Sages interpret as meaning that one of G-d’s days is equal to a thousand years (Sanhedrin 97a). This should surprise us for two reasons: (1) How do things change if G-d’s day is equal to one thousand years or more, be it for Him or for us? (2) If such indeed is the case, why does G-d’s day have to be so long? And if it does have to be so long, why is it limited to a thousand years?
This is what we can say on the subject: The Holy One, blessed be He, divided Creation into six days, and each day He manifested Himself as ruler of the world (Otiyot d’Rabbi Akiva 1). G-d revealed himself to all of Creation to show that He is One and that there is no other. He demanded that every creature recognize Him as the ruler and sovereign of the world, and each day He derived great satisfaction and pleasure from His work. However G-d foresaw that Adam would sin before Shabbat, which in fact was the case (Sanhedrin 38b), and that he would incur the penalty of death. How then was G-d going to destroy the world that He had created, and to which He had given the Torah, the goal of all Creation (Pesachim 68b)? What would become of the world and the Torah? Who was going to study it?
Under such circumstances, Hashem thought it good to lengthen His day to one thousand years. In reality, time has no meaning for G-d. Hence when we speak of one of His days, this means that the immense pleasure He had from Creation was equal to what a man would experience if he could live a thousand years with all his days being filled with pleasure. It is in that sense that G-d’s day is like a thousand years to man, for the expression conveys the magnitude of the pleasure that G-d received from Creation (and particularly from the Torah it contained). Even if a person sins, repentance will earn him pleasure equal to a thousand years.
The Gemara evokes this very same idea concerning the verse, “I am the L-RD your G-d” (Exodus 20:2): Every word that came from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, split into 70 languages, an unattainable feat for a mere mortal and only possible with G-d (Shabbat 68b). It goes the same for the day of the Holy One, blessed be He, which although unique, is comparable to a thousand years of a person’s life spent in happiness brought about by Torah study and the performance of mitzvot.
To explain this in a more detailed way, we know that there are two mitzvot in the Torah (honoring one’s parents and sending a mother bird off before taking her young) about which it is said, “So that it will be good for you and will prolong your days” (Deuteronomy 22:7). On this verse the Sages have stated, “So that you be happy in the world that is entirely good and that your days be prolonged in the world that is entirely long” (Kiddushin 39b). This is not the case with life in this world, which is short and filled with suffering, and in which neither days nor years are prolonged.
What does a prolonging of days in the World to Come mean? If a righteous person departs from this world and two days later Mashiach arrives, his time in the World to Come will have lasted just two days. Is that what is meant by “prolonging”? Where is the reward, therefore, that G-d has promised a righteous person regarding prolonging his days in the World to Come?
According to the preceding, we understand that the day of the Holy One, blessed be He, is like a thousand years of experiencing infinite pleasure, like a day that will be extremely long, without limit. Consequently, when a person is in the World to Come for two days, even if Mashiach comes almost immediately afterwards, he will have enjoyed pleasure in the World to Come tantamount to having spent two thousand years enjoying infinite pleasure, analogous to: “No eye has seen it, G-d, if not You.” And even if he spends only a few hours in the World of Truth, that will also be satisfying to him and a source of pleasure equal to many years, for in that world the sense of the Holy One’s majesty and holiness is so enduring and substantial that a person has the impression he is experiencing a pleasure that is absolutely infinite.
In addition, a person’s reward in the World to Come is proportional to his work in this world multiplied a hundred fold and more, so that it be as great as possible. For example, when someone lives 60 or 70 years in this world while studying Torah and performing mitzvot, it is as if he studied 60 or 70 thousand years, of which the Holy One, blessed be He, rewards him for every instant. Concerning such a reward, it is said, “Mah rav tuvecha [How abundant is Your goodness] that You have stored away for those who fear You” (Psalms 31:20).
We may explain that man is of the aspect of mah (the word adam [“man”] has the same numerical value as mah [“what”], and the Tetragrammaton also has that same numerical value when written with alephs – Zohar Ruth 102b). The Holy One, blessed be He, has reserved a reward for man that can be designated by mah, a reward that he can neither imagine nor describe. If he studies Torah, G-d greatly multiplies his reward, and since the day is divided into hours, minutes, and seconds, how many millions and indeed billions of seconds of infinite pleasure will a man thus receive in the World to Come! The Sages have clearly said, “There is no reward for a mitzvah in this world” (Kiddushin 39b), for the Holy One, blessed be He, multiplies the reward for performing a mitzvah in the World to Come.
Reward is therefore above nature and logic, for the Children of Israel are also above nature when they occupy themselves with Torah and mitzvot and walk in the straight path. They are then stronger than the nations of the world, and abundance also comes into the world by their merit.