Belief in the Resurrection of the Dead infuses our daily lives with purpose and hope, guiding us on our journey in the 'lobby' of this world as we prepare for the eternal 'banquet hall' of the World to Come. * On the Hayom Yom entry for the 13th of Menachem Av.
"Speak of them when you sit at home," refers to the soul's occupation with Torah when it is in the trove of souls, before its descent to this lowly world. "When you go on the way," refers to the time during which the soul descends from world to world, from plane to plane, until it comes below to this lowest world to be invested in a physical body. There the soul "goes in the way" of this world until the time of old age, until - "When you lie down," when man's appointed time arrives. Then, too, the Torah will protect him, as explained in Chapter Six of Avot, until - "When you rise up," as it is said, "When you awaken (it shall be your discourse)." The reference is to the time when the dead will come to life ("when you rise up...etc.").
This teaching, centered around a verse from Devarim, takes us on a spiritual journey, guiding us from the soul's existence before birth, through its life in the physical world, to its time of death, and finally, to its eventual resurrection. This final stage, "When you rise up," is the profound concept of Techiyat HaMeisim, the resurrection of the dead, a cornerstone of Jewish belief and thought.
But why does the resurrection hold such a central place in our belief system? Why is it that our faith hinges upon this promise of eventual revival, a phenomenon that lies far beyond our human comprehension and experience? To answer this, let's delve into seven core themes behind the concept of resurrection, drawing from classical Jewish and Chassidic sources:
1. Fundamental Belief: The principle of resurrection, affirmed in Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith, states, "I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, Blessed be His name, and His mention shall be exalted forever and ever." This declaration underlines the cornerstone of Jewish faith - God's absolute authority and the magnitude of His power. Resurrection isn't a tangential or minor belief, it represents a profound understanding that life and death are entirely in the hands of the Creator. It challenges us to grapple with our human limitations and recognize the infinite power of God, enhancing our reverence and awe of the Divine.
2. Affirmation of the World to Come: Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) 4:22 reads, "This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall." This profound metaphor instills a deeper perspective on our earthly existence, underscoring it as a preparation stage for eternal life. Our actions and choices in this world echo into eternity, shaping our place in the World to Come. The resurrection is our entry ticket into that "banquet hall," where we reap the fruits of our moral and spiritual endeavors in this life.
3. The Value of Physical Existence: The Zohar (3:113b) maintains, "All the bodies will rise in the Holy Land...they will then enjoy the sublime celestial brightness...these bodies will be of a more refined texture, being a compound of the celestial and the terrestrial." The notion of resurrection validates the inherent holiness of the physical world and the body, fundamental aspects of Jewish belief. It paints a vivid picture of an elevated state of existence after resurrection, where physical bodies, though refined and celestial, maintain their essence. This concept encourages us to value our current physical lives and use them as tools for spiritual growth and refinement.
4. Divine Justice: The Talmud (Sanhedrin 90b) declares, "There will be a resurrection of the dead—whenever the Holy One, blessed be He, remembers [to resurrect] His pious ones." This statement echoes the divine promise that the righteous will eventually be rewarded, manifesting the ultimate divine justice. It comforts those who suffer, promising that their righteousness will not go unrewarded and encourages ethical and moral conduct, even when it seems unrewarded in this world.
5. Test of Faith: The gravity of believing in the resurrection is underlined in Sanhedrin 90a, "All Israel have a portion in the world to come... And these are they that have no portion in the world to come: He who says, there is no resurrection of the dead prescribed in the Torah." Denying resurrection isn't a minor infraction; it calls into question the very core of faith in God and His Torah. This severity underscores the importance of a belief system aligned with the Torah's teachings and reinforces the seriousness with which we must approach our faith.
6. Hope and Comfort: As conveyed in the Talmud (Ketubot 111b), "Rabbi Yochanan went and found Rabbi Elazar leaning on the entrance to the Maarat Hamachpelah, the Cave of the Patriarchs, crying... And Rabbi Elazar said to him: It is known and revealed to Him who spoke, and the world came into being, that in the future He will resurrect the dead and establish His covenant with them." The resurrection provides a glimmer of hope and consolation in the face of the pain and mystery of death. It assures us that death is not the end but merely a transitional phase leading to a renewed, eternal life.
7. Ultimate Redemption: The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 95:1) prophesizes, "In the future, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will resurrect the dead and they will come up to Jerusalem." The resurrection is not an isolated event, but part of the grand divine plan, intertwined with the Messianic era and the ultimate redemption. It signals a time when the world will reach its perfected state, fulfilling its divine purpose, with peace, justice, and harmony reigning supreme.
Thus, the belief in Techiyat HaMeisim is not merely a promise of life after death. It is a testament to the fundamental principles of Jewish faith, a validation of divine justice, an assertion of the value of physical existence, a beacon of hope and comfort, and the harbinger of ultimate redemption. Through this belief, we reaffirm our trust in God's divine plan, reinforcing our commitment to lead lives of righteousness and spiritual growth in the "lobby" of this world as we prepare ourselves for the "banquet hall" of the World to Come.