For the week ending 23 December 2006 / 2 Tevet 5767

Resurrected Marriage

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Amy in WI
Dear Rabbi,
I was wondering whether, according to the Jewish belief of resurrection, a resurrected couple would remain married. I know this may sound morbid on the one hand, but if they have a good marriage in this life, it might be nice to know if the honeymoon will continue.
Dear Amy,

The halachic authority and kabbalist Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, known as the Ben Ish Chai, raised your question and answered that death and decay completely severs and dissolves the physical connection between husband and wife. Therefore, he maintains, a new marriage will have to be contracted between them after resurrection (Rav Pa’alim, Vol. II, Sod Yesharim, ch. 2). This implies, however, that they will continue to be married after resurrection.

When is this so? When this was each spouse’s only marriage. The issue becomes more complicated if either was married to someone else as well. For example, what about a woman who was married twice? After resurrection will she be married to the first husband or the last?

Here, there may be a distinction between whether she was a widow or a divorcee by her first husband before marrying the latter.

Regarding a widow who remarried, the author of Sefer HaNitzachon argues that she could only remarry the second husband. His reason is that if she returns to the first husband, it would be similar to his remarrying his divorcee after she married someone else, which is forbidden: “When a man marries a wife and…it happens that she does not find favor in his eyes…and he writes for her a bill of divorce…and she leaves his house and goes and marries another man, if the latter husband…writes her a bill of divorce…and sends her away from his house, or if the latter husband…dies, her first husband…who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, since she was known by another man” (Deut. 24:1-4) [Anaf Yosef, Sanhedrin, 128].

However, as mentioned above, the Ben Ish Chai posits that death entirely dissolves the physical connection between husband and wife. Therefore, he argues, while a husband could not remarry his divorcee if she married afterward – that is only in that same lifetime. But after death and resurrection, when the physical connection between her and the second husband has been completely severed, she can return to her first husband. And even though death dissolves the physical connection with the first husband as well, we might ask why she should marry the first any more than the second, or, for that matter, why she should marry either? According to the Zohar, even though death terminates the physical connection, in the World of Souls she remains spiritually connected to the first, not the second, and therefore upon resurrection she should marry the first:

“When Jacob died, his body was buried in the Holy Land…But for Moses, no part of his body was buried in the Holy Land. Why? Because Jacob was the first husband of the Queen [the Divine Presence], but after Jacob died, she mated with Moses. While Moses was in this world, he visited her as was proper and he became her second husband…[But when he died], Moses remained outside, neither his body nor his bones entered the Land. Instead, the Shechina entered the Holy Land after Moses died and she returned to her first husband, who was Jacob. From this we learn that a woman who was married to two men [in this world], in the World to Come she shall return to her first husband. Moses was buried outside because the first husband of the Divine Presence (Jacob) was in the Holy Land [and a woman remains with her first husband]” (Zohar I, 21b).

Regarding a divorcee who remarries, both opinions would agree that after resurrection she would remarry the second husband. Since Sefer HaNitzachon maintains this regarding a widow, in a case where the first couple’s marriage terminated in divorce all the more so she should remain married to the second husband. And here, even the Ben Ish Chai would agree that since divorce severs the spiritual connection with her first husband, in the World of Souls she would remain spiritually connected to the second, and therefore revive the marriage with him after resurrection.

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