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For the week ending 22 January 2005 / 12 Shevat 5765

Resurrection

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman - www.rabbiullman.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

From: Chad in Michigan

Dear Rabbi,

A friend of mine from college recently went to a talk by an Orthodox rabbi who made a reference to the Resurrection of the Dead in the context of the class. When he told me about it, I was shocked. I always thought Resurrection was a Christian belief. Does Judaism also believe in it?

Dear Chad,

Many people associate the belief in Resurrection with other religions and are surprised to know that it is an authentic, essential part of Judaism.

There are many references to Resurrection in the daily life and observance of a Jew:

One of the daily morning blessings, "Elokai, neshama shnatata bi", directly refers to Resurrection: "My G-d, the soul which You have placed within me is pure. You created it...and You preserve it within me. You will eventually take it from me, and restore it within me in the Time to Come. As long as the soul is within me, I offer thanks to You...Master of all works, L-rd of all souls. Blessed are You, G-d, Who restores souls to dead bodies."

The second blessing of the Shemone Esre, the central prayer of the services recited three or more times a day, praises He Who "resurrects the dead with great mercy...and fulfills his trust to those who sleep in the dust.... Who can be compared to You, King, Who brings death and restores life, and causes deliverance to spring forth! You are trustworthy to revive the dead. Blessed are You, G-d, Who revives the dead."

There are a plethora of references to Resurrection in Jewish sources. Here are some Scriptural and Talmudic passages, as well as the opinion of early, authoritative commentaries:

Then He said to me; "Son of man, can these bones become alive?" And I answered, "O Lord G-d, You [alone] know." And He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.' So says the Lord G-d to these bones: Behold, I will cause spirit to enter into you, and you shall live! And I will lay sinews upon you, and I will make flesh grow over you and cover you with skin and put breath into you, and you will live, and you will then know that I am the Lord. Therefore, prophesy and say to them, So says the Lord G-d: Lo! I open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves as My people, and bring you home to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and lead you up out of your graves as My people. And I will put My spirit into you, and you shall live (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Rabbi Simai says: "Whence do we learn Resurrection from the Torah? From the verse, 'And I also have established My covenant with [the Patriarchs] to give them the Land of Canaan' (Ex. 6:4). The verse does not say 'to give you' but 'to give them.' [Rashi explains that since the Land was given to their descendants, and has not yet been given to them personally,] their future Resurrection is thus proved from the Torah" (Sanhedrin 90b).

An emperor said to Rabban Gamliel: "You maintain that the dead will live again; but they turn to dust - can dust come to life?" Thereupon the [emperor's] daughter said to [Rabban Gamliel]: "Here, let me answer him. In our town there are two potters: one fashions his vessels from water [glass], and the other from clay. Who is the more praiseworthy?" "He who fashions them from water," replied [her father]. She concluded: "If He can fashion man from water [Rashi, from a drop of liquid], surely he can do so from clay" (ibid. 91a).

Chiya bar Yosef said: "A time will come when the righteous will break through the soil and rise up in Jerusalem, for it is written, 'And they shall blossom out of the city like grass from the earth' (Psalms 72:16 and Ketubot 111b). Queen Cleopatra asked Rabbi Meirwhen they arise, will they arise naked or clothed?" He replied, "You may deduce the answer by observing a wheat grain. If a grain of wheat, which is buried naked, sprouts forth in many robes, how much more so the righteous, who are buried in their garments" (Sanhedrin 90b).

Rambam summarizes the Jewish belief in Resurrection as follows: "The concept of Resurrection which is well known among our people and accepted throughout all its circles, and which is often mentioned in the prayers and aggadic teachings and supplications (written by the Prophets and the foremost Sages) with which the Talmud and the Midrashim are replete signifies the following: The soul will return to the body after they have been separated [by death]. No Jew has disputed this concept, and it cannot be interpreted other than literally. One may not accept the view of any Jew who believes otherwise" (Discourse on the Resurrection ch. 4). For this reason Rambam concludes his well-known Thirteen Principles of belief incumbent on every Jew with the emphatic affirmation: "I believe with perfect faith that the dead will be brought back to life when G-d wills it to happen".

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