Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Haolam Haba—salvation of man from rabbinical point of view Part 2

literature about ‘ the world to come’.” 1

Who will have a share in the world to come according to the sages?

“ All Israel have a place in the world to come.” ( Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1).

“… Rabbi Eliezer said: all the nations will have no share in the world to come { i.e. no heathen, or non-Jew will have a share in the world to come}, even as it is said, ‘ The wicked shall go into Sheol, and all the nations that forget God’ (Ps. Ix, 17). ‘ The wicked shall go into Sheol’ {= hell}: these are the wicked among Israel. R. Joshua said to him: If the verse had said, ‘The wicked shall go into Sheol and all the nations,’ and had stopped there, I should have agreed with you, but as it goes on to say, ‘ who forget god’ , it means that there are righteous men among the nations who have a share in the world to come.” 2


There is a consensus between the Rabbis that all Israel will have a share in the world to come. Not so with the Gentiles, only the righteous will have a share. The question is asked: what makes a Gentile righteous? The Rabbis had an answer to that too. They invented the so called “noachide laws” saying any Gentile who abides by these laws is righteous. 3 But even here there are disagreements, contradictions and confusions.

“ If I had not accepted the law, I should have been just as one of the nations, for whom there is neither reward nor punishment.” ( Pesikta rabbati 107 a).

Some of the Rabbis where of the view that this world is for the Gentiles happiness, but the next world happiness is for Israel. One can see the division of classes not only between Israel and the nation, but also within Israel itself. On one hand we have the Sanhedrin passage: “all Israel will have a share of the world to come..” On the other, in the same tract we find that not ALL Israel will, some of Israel will not:

“…He who says the resurrection of the dead is not indicated in the law… ( Rambam’s view) …He who says the Torah is not from heaven… The Epikouros… He who reads alien books…He who pronounces the divine name out loud… Three kings and four private persons have no share in the world to come…” (Sanhedrin 11, 99b, 105a).

One of the three kings, Menassah, will have a portion in the world to come after all:

“ If a man were to come and say that God does not receive the penitent, Manassah would come and testify against him, for there was never a man more wicked than he, and yet, in the hour of his repentance, God received him, as it is said, ‘He prayed unto God, and God was entreated of him’ (2 Chron. 33:13).” ( Numbers rabbah, Naso, 14,1).

Rabbi Akiva was of the mind that a share in the world to come is a privilege, and that privilege can only be gained by a positive and upright living, namely doing the Mitzvot. Akiva did not see this privilege as an inherited right that only punishment can erase, meaning that the deeds of man in this life overturn the election of God. He said that only the people who do not posses good deeds at all will not have a share in the world to come. God will be merciful, and grant admission to the world to come even to a person who does only one good deed.

The ancient sages viewed the עולם הבא as the place where one gets his rewards for life in עולם הזה . Life in this world is a conditioning to life after this life. The reward, good, or bad, will be given in the world to come. It is unclear what the reward is, and there is some confusion over that issue.


“ R. Nathan said: There is no commandment in the law, however light, for which there is not a reward in this world; the reward in the world to come, I know not….” (Menachot 44a).

On the other hand we have this:

“ The reward for obedience to the law is not in this world, but in the world to come…” ( Ta’anit, Bereshit 1,f, 7a).

Some Rabbis, like Rabbi Akiva thought that heavenly rewards are a certainty (Mak.24b), Others, warned against keeping the Mitzvot in order to receive rewards in heaven. But the idea that one is merited a share in the world to come if he keeps just one Mitzvah is a major theme in rabbinic literature:

“ The Rabbis say: let a man ever regard himself as if he were half-guilty and half-deserving; then, if he fulfills one command, happy is he, for he has inclined the scale toward merit;……..” ( Kiddushin 40b).

“ R. Hananiah b. Akashya said: It pleased God to make Israel able to acquire merit. Therefore He multiplied to them Torah and commandments, as it is said, ; It pleased the Lord for his righteousness sake to make the law large; (Makkot 3:160.

“Rabbi Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Judah the prince, said: Let all who are employed with the congregation act with them for heaven’s sake, for then the merit of their fathers sustains them and their righteousness endures forever. ‘And as for you, God says, ‘ I account you worthy of great reward as if you had wrought it all yourselves.’ “ (Avot 11:2)

In light of this Avot passage, What Paul said in Romans 11:28 is interesting at the least.

The Rabbis viewed the whole purpose of the Torah with it’s 613 laws was to enable Israel to acquire merit, and through merit, reward. Note also how in some cases an individual Israelite is stressed, in others it stresses the individual human being. Yet some of the rabbis stressed that one should not rely on merit too much:

“ A man must not trust in the work of his ancestors. If a man does not do good in this world, he cannot put his trust in the work of his fathers. No man will eat in the time to come of his father’s works, but only of his own.”

Given all the confusion of the Rabbis throughout the generations is it a wonder why the modern Jew of today believes that heaven can wait? The modern Jew believes that it is better to concentrate on life here and now, keep the mitzvoth in order to get the rewards in the world to come.


If one is to attend a Jewish funeral to day, one will not hear something like this: “ He/she is OK, He/she is in Paradise,” referring to the deceased. For them, this is something you hear in Christian funerals. This does not mean that the Jews today do not believe in the concept of גן עדן , they just don’t mention it. why? Because there was never a unified teaching of this concept, there was never an emphasis of the spiritual side of death. For the modern Jew, death has such finality to it because he/she was never conditioned to the concept of after life. This is why a Jewish funeral is so hard to bear.

So, maybe Avot 4:21,22 does not show confusion. For the modern Jew העולם הבא is the place where Jews get their rewards, therefore none of the pleasures of this world can measure to the delights of the world to come. On the other hand, this world, is the place where a person chooses to do good deeds, and in some way doing good deeds has a higher priority than receiving the rewards of the world to come.

There is the story of the Vilnah Gaon, on his deathbed he was crying. When asked by his family why was he crying his answer was: “Here in this world, for a few coins I can buy a tzitzit.” All the bliss of the world to come, cannot substitute for the opportunity to keep the Mitzvot. Jews are focused on this world, because only in this world the soul can choose goodness. Only in this world can a person try to achieve God’s will. Since the world to come is a mystery, and no one knows what will happen once we get there, it is easy for the modern Jew to believe that the world to come is for GETTING ( the rewards), and this world is for GIVING. By giving one imitates God the ultimate giver. No wonder that Judaism emphasizes the עולם הזה .

But then, the prevailing belief of the modern Jew is that one should not keep the Mitzvot in order to receive rewards in the world to come. The Rabbis of today teach that every Mitzvah is worth more than its reward. Doing the will of God is a target by itself. Jews do not aspire to get into גן עדן , but to change life in this world to make it a גן עדן on earth. The modern Rabbis also teach that when a Jew dies, he fails, since he does not have the opportunity to do good things anymore. This is why Jews value life so much, they see their daily efforts as something invaluable. For them, the loss of days, hours, and minutes is something extremely tragic. Chabad teaches that every Mitzvah done on this earth will count so much more in heaven.



The Prophet Isaiah spoke of אחרית הימים (Isaiah 2:2). The sages wrote about them with much confusion and contradictions. Within אחרית הימים they included: ימות המשיח –Days of Messiah, תחית המתים –the resurrection, and העולם הבא –the world to come. These eras seem to overlap, there is confusion when the days of Messiah end, before or after the resurrection, or when the world to come start. It is also difficult to know what is reality, and what is a metaphor.

ימות המשיח –the Days of Messiah.

Also known as the DAYS OF REDEMPTION. The teaching about the Days of Messiah are not about a personal Messiah,(certainly, there is much existing writing about a personal Messiah), but of a Messianic age where people will live on this earth, in this world, which will remain in its basic form with no more wars, nor hate, nor poverty, nor evil. People will eat and drink, conduct regular life, and there will be no more hatred toward the Jewish people. The temple will be built, and the re-gathering of all Jews back to the Holy Land will occur. How will the world change from the present condition to a new world? There will be a time immediately before the Days of Messiah, where all the values of the old world will collapse as a preparation to the new world.

תחית המתים –the Resurrection.

We know from Scriptures that the belief in the Resurrection existed within Judaism. The Pharisees and the Sadducees, were divided on the belief. The Sadducees rejected the Resurrection because it was not mentioned in the Torah. In the writings of the sages the belief took hold. Maimonides included it in his thirteen principles of faith. He reaffirmed the Talmudic writers in their contention that he who do not believe in the Resurrection does not have a share in the World to come.

As mentioned above, controversy, confusion, and imagination are sawn through the writings of the sages on the belief. There exists a disagreement on the question of: will the Resurrection be only spiritual, (only the souls will be resurrected) or, will the body and soul unite.


העולם הבא – the World to come.

The term is used interchangeably for the spiritual after life, and also for the Days of Messiah (Messianic age). The sages wrote that all Israel has a share in the עולם הבא , but not all shares are equal. One can “earn” his share in the World to come through doing the Mitzvot. Rabbinic Judaism does not see the error in this thinking because they are not focused on the question of how to get into the World to come. Their focus is on life here and now. Judaism sees the עולם הבא as the place where the rewards are given for keeping the commandments.

There is so much more to research, but I have tried to limit myself to the general outlook of Judaism.


1) Montefiore & Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology (Schocken books 1974), p. 581.

2) Ibid. p. 604.

3) Tim Hegg, “ Do the Seven, Go to Heaven?”

haolam haba—salvation of man from the rabbinical point of view part 1

In researching עולם הבא from the Jewish and rabbinical view, one encounters many different opinions to the point of confusion. To best illustrate this mix baggage is a passage from Pirkey Avot:

R. Jacob said: This world is like a vestibule before the world to come; prepare thyself in the vestibule, that thou mayest enter into the hall. He used to say, ‘better is one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than the whole life of the world to come; and better is one hour of blissfulness of spirit in the world to come than the whole life of this world. (Avot iv 21,22).

This confusion is a result of Judaism focusing primarily on life in העולם הזה the world of here and now. Even though traditional Judaism does believe that death is not the end, it does not have much dogma about the afterlife. Because of this we can see many personal opinions. An Orthodox Jew can believe that the souls of the righteous dead go to a place similar to what we believe is heaven. He can believe in reincarnation through many lifetimes, or just wait for the coming of the Messiah and be resurrected. The souls of the wicked an Orthodox Jew can believe are simply destroyed at death.

The sages mostly focused on the logistics of body and soul before and after death. One should keep the Mitzvot on this earth so he can get to the world to come, but there is no emphasis on what one will experience in the עולם הבא .

Is there evidence to the afterlife in the Tanach? Even here we get split opinions. Some point to ample passages like:

“…I kill and I make alive… ( Deut. 32:39).

“ Adonai kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.” ( 1 Sam. 2:6).

This last passage is alluded to in the Talmud:

“Here is the answer to the people who say there is no resurrection in the Torah.” (Bavli, Pesachim 68:71).

From such passages they say, one can learn of the power of Hashem to resurrect the dead. Other passages include: ( 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37; 13:21).


They also point to a corporate resurrection besides the individual one:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt..” ( Daniel 12:3).

Others maintain that in the whole of the Tanach one cannot find any mention to נשמה –soul, עולם הבא , or resurrection, or incarnation, in any variation. They say that חז"ל in the last days of the second Temple inserted the concept of the resurrection idea into Judaism, knowing fully well that there is no mention of it in the Tanach.

The afterlife is not a dogmatic subject within Judaism, hence, the varied opinions by different groups. According to the sages the resurrection of the dead means the return of the dead to life on earth, in their bodies. The belief in the resurrection of the dead at the end of days is one of the primary beliefs of the Jewish religion. חז"ל determined that if one does not believe that the resurrection of the dead is from the Torah, he does not have a share in the world to come ( Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1).

We can find the belief in the resurrection of the dead as an apocalyptic event in the book of Hashmonaim; Hanah’s fourth son defied his torturer saying: “ it is better to trust in God, then in man, because I will be awaken to everlasting life, but you will not.” ( 2 Hashmonaim 7:15). Josephus relates the belief in the resurrection of the dead to the Pharisees. The controversy between the Pharisees and Sadducees on the matter is mentioned in the book of Acts, where Paul defended himself in his trial before the Sanhedrin. ( Acts 23:6;8).

חז"ל adhered to the teachings and tradition of the Pharisees. They bolstered the belief in the resurrection of the dead through דרשות –homilies. In their opinion they were trying to prove that the concept has a basis in the Torah. Example:

Tanna Rabbi Siami says: “ where is the resurrection of the dead in the Torah? It says: ‘ I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan…’ ( Ex. 6:4). It does not say ‘to you,’ but ‘to them’ and here it is the Torah.” (Bavli, Sanhedrin 90:2).

But even among the sages there were profound differences in their individual views of the resurrection of the dead. There is much confusion especially on the issue of who will be resurrected and go to the world to come, and who is not.


Seaadia Gaon, explains at length his view on the resurrection of the dead. In his writing titled: אמונות ודעות – briefs and opinions. Gaon does not search for a proof that there is a consensus for the belief of תחית המתים . He maintains that the question of how will Hashem resurrect the dead is irrelevant since Hashem knows that He created substance out of nothing, there for it is only logical that it will not be hard for Him to bring substance back from decay, and state of brokenness. Gaon sees a future resurrection in the dry bones prophecy of Ezekiel, He states that the creator will resurrect the dead, and will cloth them. Like חז"ל Gaon is of the opinion that there is a limited supply of souls (bavli, yevamot 62:71), and when the supply will end, then, it will be the time of the “end of the world,” and the beginning of אחרית הימים – the “latter days,” including the days of Messiah, the world to come, and the days of recompense.

Gaon also claims that the future resurrection will be limited to the righteous Jews only. He points to Daniel 12:2: “and many of those who sleep…” It does not say: “ all those who sleep,” therefore he concludes that the resurrection is limited to the righteous of Israel only, not the nations.

Here are some questions that Gaon answers in his writings:

· What will be the lifestyle of the resurrected? “ They will eat and drink like us, and also they will marry.

· Will the resurrected die again? “The ones who will live in the time of salvation will not die.”

· How long will the resurrected live? “their lives will be long, longer than in our time. In that generation they will live 500 years.”

· If the resurrection of the dead is back to the material life, than how will be their transition to the world to come where there will be no eating and drinking? “Just like Moses who stood on the mountain for 40 days without food.”

· Will the resurrected recognize their family, friends, and each other? “The shepherds, princes, and Prophets will be recognized within the nation. The prominent, as well as the common will be attached to the same tribes, even the Ger will be attached to the same tribe they use to reside with.

· Will the people who will be alive on earth at the time of the resurrection die? “ They will live many days, but will die before the transition to העולם הבא , but they will have a share in the world to come.


The רמב"ם –Maimonides, Unlike the sages who lived before him, wrote very little about תחית המתים , even though he elaborated at length on the world to come and the days of Messiah. רמב"ם Touches on the subject only in passing. In his Mishne Torah, the Hilchot Teshuva tractate. There, in one of his thirteen articles of faith he writes that one who does not believe in the resurrection does not have a place in the world to come. (Hilchot Teshuva 3:6).

According to Maimonides, the world to come, the days of Messiah, and the resurrection of the dead are three different events. העולם הבא is a spiritual event, the other two are earthly events. From these two, the days of Messiah is a natural event, the resurrection is a supernatural event. Before Maimonides, as we saw with Gaon, the prevailing teaching was the belief that the preserving of the soul, and the life in the world to come are likened to the resurrection of the dead. The world to come starts with the awakening of the “sleeping in the dust” from their sleep to life. The resurrection is linked with the new life as a result of the coming redeemer Mashiach Ben David.

Maimonides turns the tables and managed to create a distinction between the world to come, and the days of Messiah, explaining each of these events in his special way as to give each a different and interesting meaning. As far as the resurrection, he only mention the duty to believe in it. At the time רמב"ם met with a strong opposition to his views which prompt him to write the “treatise of the resurrection,” where he responds to his critics. The summary of the letter is: “ The soul returns to the body after the separation. Those people will eat, drink, and bring forth children. They will die again after a very long life. ( Chapter 4). In the letter there is no mention of the time, nor the purpose of the resurrection. Maimonides concludes that the whole issue is just a model, an example (Chapter 7), he also maintains that all one has to do is to believe it. From Rambam’s order of events in the end of days, the understanding is that the resurrection will precede the days of Messiah. His reason is that the righteous of all generations will be able to enjoy the abundance of the days of Messiah. To do so, the resurrection has to occur first.

The רבא"ד – Rabbi Abraham Ben David (1120-1197 CE) Is opposing the רמב"ם . In His teachings, unlike the Rambam, רבא"ד does not make any distinction between the world to come, the resurrection of the dead, and the days of Messiah as Rambam does. רבא"ד maintains that in the world to come only the souls of the righteous dwell. There are no physical bodies, the dead are dead until the resurrection which occurs in the end of days.


The souls of the righteous are resurrected together with the bodies and together they exist forever.

Nahmanides, רמב"ן (1194-1270) has yet another system. In his writing titled “Sha’ar Hagmul” he details the chain of events in the days to come.

1) At death, the soul separates from the body and dwells in גן עדן – Garden of Eden. The days of Messiah will come in the present world, followed by the resurrection of the dead. At that time the souls are reunited with their bodies.

2) The resurrected will live forever in the world to come which is attached to the Garden of Eden.

The question is asked: If life after the resurrection will be a spiritual life, then why the need for physical bodies? Nahmanides has two answers: a) One cannot imagine a resurrection without a physical body, if God ordained it that way, then why cancel it? b) The body is necessary for Hidden reasons. (those Rabbis had an answer to everything).

So, the main dispute was: after the resurrection, in eternal life, does the spiritual soul live in the physical body as Gaon and רמב"ן maintain, or eternal life is only spiritual, soul without a body as Maimonides claims?

Those aforementioned medieval Rabbis stood on the shoulders of the ancient sages who are mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud. There, the confusion is even greater.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Neo-Messianism or Deja-Vu all over again.

I don't know if I can take credit for coining the term. I might have heard it somewhere. In an age when we are experiencing the sand shifting under our feet, and see people coming up with new terms time and again, Bilateral this...Divine that... I guess mine is as good as any.

What do I mean by that?
We are now in an age where Scriptures do no longer count as sole guidelines for us to follow, nor it seems necessary to use Scriptures as the basis of formating a new doctrine. People are inventing new teachings that cannot pass any exegetical test, and then, they expect everyone to join them in singing Coombaya around the camp fire. And many people do. Following the sound of the flute held by the guy who leads them to nowhere.

Yes we are in the age of Neo-Messianism. With new doctrines that at best we can call fantasy since they can in no way be implamented on the ground in today's MJ. Not logistically, and not in terms of living out the decrees in a realm of a community.

People are saying that we should not be concerned with the people of the Scriptures, they are all dead and we are living in the 21st century. But then they will quote the book of Acts to support their agenda, as if the people of the book of Acts are alive and kicking today.
Let's face it, MJ as we know it today painted itself into the corner and now find themselves with an influx of Gentiles in their midst that they never planned for when they started the movement. Now, they are trying to remedy the problem by following the same error of the influencers in the book of Acts. Deja-Vu all over again... They advocate conversion (which includes circumcision of course). And I thought that the book of Acts which they taut so much advocates against circumcision? But then, again, the end justifies the means....

There is a lot more to discuss, but for now I leave whoever reads this to contemplate.
I just want to leave you with one thought: If, like some bloggers say, we are to agree that Messianic Judaism is God's ordained, then we have also to agree that God planned it to be comprised with 90% Gentiles, otherwise we have to conclude that MJ is not God's ordained.

Go ahead, raise my blood pressure, as one blogger says I like to do.....