Saturday, August 6, 2016

"In the world which will be renewed and where He will give life to the dead..."

.... OK, he doesn’t believe in the afterlife. .... And, perhaps many Jews don’t believe in an afterlife, but Judaism certainly does....

Judaism and the Afterlife 101.
  • In the biblical period, ancient Jews believed that people went to Sheol, a shadowy pit beneath the earth. Nothing much happens there (sort of like certain cities that you have visited, no doubt).
This is pretty much the standard view until the book of Daniel, perhaps the last book of the Bible to be written.

“Many of those that sleep in the dust will awaken,” we read, “and the knowledgeable will be radiant like the bright expanse of the sky, and those who have led the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3). That verse is the beginning of the Jewish idea of personal immortality.
  • In the rabbinic period, the sages taught that people would go on to olam ha-ba (the world to come), also known as gan Eden (the Garden of Eden.) At the end of history, the dead would become resurrected.
(“Really?” people ask me. “This sounds so….Christian.” Yup. Where do you think Christianity got this idea? From Judaism, with a little help from Greek philosophy as well.)

That is why we say Kaddish for our parents – because that prayer would carry them into the World to Come. At the end of history, the Messiah would come, the dead would be resurrected and they would travel back to the land of Israel – which is why Jews were often buried with sacks of soil from Eretz Yisrael beneath their heads.

That is why autopsy and cremation are traditionally forbidden – because the body must remain whole.

Week after week, at funerals, I recite this prayer: “El malei rachamim, O God of Compassion, let the soul of our beloved rest tachat kanfei ha-shechina, beneath the wings of God’s Presence, along with all the other pure and righteous ones in the Garden of Eden.”.... [more]