- Question: [Monday, 3rd Menachem Av 5781]
I have read in various stories of the concept of selling one’s world to come. Does such a thing really exist in Jewish law that one can sell his reward in the next world?
No, it is not possible for one to sell his portion in the world to come and if one does such a transaction, the transaction is null and void. Nonetheless, one who does so loses that which he sold, as a punishment for belittling the reward.
Explanation: Although it is possible for one to make a Yissachar-Zevulun agreement to split the rewards of one’s future learning of Torah, no agreement can help give away the reward of one’s past learning of Torah, and the same would apply to all Mitzvos. This is learned from an explicit verse in Shir Hashirim 8:7 “If man gives away all of his treasures, it will be a shame for him,” which the Talmud and Poskim interpret to refer to one who sells his world to come. In fact, the Talmud relates a story of such a proposition in which Shavna, who was a businessman and the brother of Hillel, offered to purchase a portion in his world to come, to which a heavenly voice came and declared the above verse, which is interpreted as above. Thus, in all the stories that one reads of people doing so, the matter was either done figuratively, or due to ignorance. Furthermore, even regarding one who makes a Yissachar-Zevulun agreement, some learn that in truth he does not lose out half of his reward, and simply causes that also the businessman gets reward as if he learns Torah.
Sources: See Rama Y.D. 246:1 “However, if he already learned Torah, then he is unable to sell his reward for money.”; Rabbeinu Yerucham Nesiv 2 [Vol. 5 p. 23], brought in Beis Yosef 246 and in Bedek Habayis, based on story of Hillel and Shavna in Sotah 21a, that his portion cannot be sold and that he loses it for doing so; Maharam Alshaker 101 “Do you really think that the reward for mitzvahs is an asset that one holds in his bosom that he can then sell”; Beis Yosef 246; Hagahos Rav Akiva Eiger 246 in name of Rav Haiy Gaon; Beis Hillel 246; Divrei Malkiel 4:81; Tuv Taam Vadas 1:217; Eish Das Parshas Vayeilech; Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:37-16; Shearim Umetzuyanim Behalacha [Braun]62:4; Pesakim Uteshuvos 246:12; However, see Shut Harosh Kelal 13 that if one sold his sins to another then the sale is valid; Shut Maharsham 3:151 and 205