3.11 - An Illustrative Parable
Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar HaAvodah chapter 9
To illustrate the dynamic between predestination on one hand and reward and punishment on the other, the Chovos HaLevavos presents a parable:
Imagine an island with a very unusual law: each year they would appoint a stranger to serve as their ruler. At the end of the year, the stranger would be exiled and returned to his homeland. One foolish ruler asked no questions. He just spent his year-long reign working exclusively on the island’s infrastructure, sending no resources to his own homeland in anticipation of his return. Quite the opposite, he imported everything he had to the island with the result that, when he was returned to his country of origin, he actually had less than he started with. Obviously, he regretted exerting all his efforts on achievements that only others would be able to enjoy.
Another ruler was much wiser; he inquired as to the island’s laws and customs, learning what was to come. Armed with this knowledge, he was able to export that which he desired to retain. He paid no heed to flatterers, knowing that they would distract him from his own self-interest. He was sad that he had limited time to accumulate these riches but grateful for the opportunity to stockpile riches in his homeland. When his tenure as monarch was over, he returned home joyfully, pleased with what he had accomplished. Through this course of action, he was able to maximize his time in both lands.
Our position in life is like that of the king on the island. We are only here temporarily and we will depart before we know it. If we act as the second, wise king did, we will make the most of our time in this world and enjoy the benefits of our efforts in the Next World.