Humanity at its Highest

This world is the period of the battle between material existence and spirituality, between good and evil: “One nation shall contend with the other,”2 with the good sometimes prevailing and sometimes the evil.

In the days of Mashiach, when the Jewish people will have completed the battle — when the good will have been sorted out from the evil and the evil from the good — and they will go out of exile, they will attain the perfect state of man that existed before the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The Jewish people will then no longer be under the dominion of the Tree of [both] Good and Evil.3 However, since the impure side of the universe4 will still have a hold over the5 “mixed multitude,” something will still be lacking in the perfection of the Jewish people. (This explains why all those who will be alive when Mashiach arrives will die before the Resurrection and only later will they arise.) In the course of the Days of Mashiach they will ascend the ladder of perfection by virtue of their divine service. For this reason the Days of Mashiach are the time of which it is written (concerning the commandments),6 היום לעשותם — “Today [is the time] to fulfill them.” (Indeed, this period will see the fullest expression of this phrase.)

The following stage, which is called the World of Resurrection,7 goes further. At that time G‑d will utterly8 “remove the spirit of impurity from the earth” and there will be neither sin nor death, for G‑d Himself will9 “slaughter the Evil Inclination,” which is the Angel of Death.10 At that time man will attain his most perfect state, not only in proportion to his spiritual labors and their due reward, but moreover as a gift granted from above. This is why11 “the commandments will be abrogated in future time,” at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, when12 “the righteous will sit with crowns on their heads, and bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence.” Thus, once man has attained his most perfect state, he will be blessed with a reward so sublime that we have no inkling of it.

This reward will be bestowed in the world here below, to souls clothed within bodies, for then the world will attain the ultimate state for which it was first created13 — to become “a dwelling place for G‑d among the lower worlds.”

Teshuvos U’Biurim of the Rebbe, sec. 11

Stages in the Apprehension of Divinity

In this physical and material world we are unable to grasp the actual identity14 of the Divine light, even of the lesser and immanent level of light called memaleh kol almin. All we can do is to have a knowledge and sensation of its existence,15 in the spirit of the verse,16 “Raise your eyes aloft and behold Who created these!”

In the more rarefied state of being called Gan Eden, which is the World of Souls and hence unencumbered by the obscurity of bodily veils, it becomes possible to grasp the actual identity of the immanent level of Divine light called memaleh kol almin.

One step higher, in the days of Mashiach, materiality will be refined. The image of G‑d will illumine a man from within, as it did before the sin of Adam, and even more so. At that time, there will be revelations even from the higher and transcendent level of Divine light called sovev kol almin.

The pinnacle is reached with the Resurrection of the Dead, when this world attains its ultimate state of perfection. At that point, the very Essence of the Infinite One — Atzmus Ein Sof, Baruch Hu — will become manifest.

* * *

The above modes of Divine illumination, in ascending order:

Memaleh kol almin (lit., “fills all worlds”): The radiance of the Divine Presence is actually garbed within the created worlds where it is diffused differentially according to their various levels.

Sovev kol almin (lit., “encompasses all worlds”): Here, too, the Divine light is actually within the created worlds (for “encompasses” is not a spatial term), except that it is not diffused differentially to their various levels, but abides within them while remaining transcendent (makkif).

Atzmuso umahuso (lit., “His Essence and Being”): Actual Divinity, a level of light which outshines any definition which would relate it to the bounds of the created worlds.

Teshuvos U’Biurim of the Rebbe, sec. 11

Measure for Measure

The Alter Rebbe writes that all the future revelations of Divinity17 “depend on our actions and divine service throughout the period of exile.”

Now, the spiritual labors of the Jewish people bring about the Redemption not only in a general sense, but moreover according to the more specific principle of18 “measure for measure.” If so, one might ask, what is the particular kind of divine service that brings about the Resurrection of the Dead?

The following answers could be proposed:

(a) Basically, by observing the commandments one transforms the physicality of the world (which is transient and obsolescent, smacking of death) into a vessel and home for sanctity (which bespeaks vitality and eternity). Divine service of this kind will bring about the Resurrection of the Dead.

(b) The divine service called beirurim19 consists of sifting and refining the materiality of this world, in order to locate and elevate the sparks of sanctity which are embedded there and which fell from their pristine heights. And since20 “one who has fallen from his station is referred to as dead,” the elevation of the sparks foreshadows the Resurrection of the Dead.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 1011

The Days of Mashiach and the Resurrection (i)

In the Days of Mashiach the physicality of the world will be so purified and refined, that even animals and beasts will be uplifted; as it is written,21 “They shall neither hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain”; likewise,22 “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb..., and the cow and the bear shall pasture....” And obviously, the human body will be utterly refined.

Nevertheless, we find that there will be death (“for a youth will die a hundred years old”23 ) — and the function of death is the refinement of the body. For since a body will then be born of a physical father and mother, through physical and natural desire and will, the body will stand in need of this final and utter refinement of its physicality.

(It goes without saying that the above-mentioned desire is no mere materialistic desire, nor will it be tarnished by any taint of evil. Nevertheless, it will be natural — as with Adam before the sin, who had no materialistic desire at all, and whose will to eat, for example, was not intended for the satisfaction of an appetite but for the well-being of the body.)

Thus far concerns the Days of Mashiach. At the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, by contrast, bodies will not be born of a father and mother, but will live from “the Dew of Resurrection.”24 Accordingly, they will be holy and pure, and live eternally. They will resemble the body of Adam,25 “the handiwork of the Holy One, blessed be He,” which was utterly pure and refined. In the words of our Sages,26 “His heel cast a shadow on the orb of the sun.” Indeed, as far as his body was concerned, he would have lived forever.

Sefer HaMaamarim 5686 [1926], p. 227

The Days of Mashiach and the Resurrection (ii)

The Divine light to be revealed in the Days of Mashiach will be the light which the Jewish people will have drawn earthward by serving G‑d through the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvos. The revelation will thus be proportionate to their past service. Hence the language of the verse,27 ונגלה כבוד ה' — “The glory of G‑d will be revealed”: the light which until that time had remained hidden within this study and this observance will then be unveiled for all to behold.

The Divine light that will be revealed at the time of the Resurrection, however, will outshine it by far: its source will be a level of Divinity that is beyond the reach of any mortal service.

Or HaTorah, Bereishis, p. 880

On the Third Day

There is a prophetic verse which says,28 יחיו מימים, ביום השלישי יקימנו ונחיה לפניו — “He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His Presence.”

The Sages understand the “two days” as referring to This World and the World to Come (Olam HaBa, here meaning Gan Eden29 ), and “the third day” as referring to the World of Resurrection (Olam HaTechiyah, the higher state which will follow the coming of Mashiach).

To what modes of divine service do these three states correspond?

This World represents the spiritual lifestyle of those who (like the Tribe of Zevulun30 ) spend most of their time working for a living, and who pattern their lives according to the Torah.

The World to Come represents those (like the Tribe of Yissachar241) whose main occupation is studying Torah.31 The third day represents a level of divine service that combines both the above modes, a level at which the soul and the body participate with equal enthusiasm in the service of G‑d. This level recalls the state of Adam before the sin, when there was no difference between the body and the soul; as it is written,32 “And they felt no shame.” It also foreshadows the future time of which it has been promised,33 “I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the earth,” so that the body will thus be even loftier than the soul — and this is the ultimate intent underlying the creation of this world.

Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe, Vol.IV, p. 452

Eating and Drinking in the World to Come (i)

Our Sages have taught:34 “In the World to Come there will be neither eating nor drinking; rather, the righteous will sit with crowns on their heads, and bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence.”

In Olam HaBa (“the World to Come”) there will be physical bodies complete with all their organs, as now — for Olam HaBa here means Olam HaTechiyah (“the World of Resurrection”), not Gan Eden (“the World of Souls”).240 Nevertheless, even though there will then be neither eating nor drinking, the physical body with all its organs will not have been created in vain, G‑d forbid; rather, the body will be nourished by the radiance of the Divine Presence.

In this it will resemble Moshe Rabbeinu during his forty days on Mount Sinai: his physical body remained intact, except that it was nourished by ruchniyus, by the spirituality of the Divine light.

Likkutei Torah, Shabbos Shuvah, p. 65d

Eating and Drinking in the World to Come (ii)

In Olam HaBa (“the World to Come”), here meaning Olam HaTechiyah (“the World of Resurrection”),240 Divinity will be manifest at a more sublime level than in Gan Eden (“the World of Souls”). For since even the body will be receptive to the radiance of the Divine Presence and will be sustained by it, it is clear that the source of this radiance must be a level of Divinity that transcends the limitations of Seder Hishtalshelus, the chainlike scheme of gradual descent whereby the Divine light progressively screens itself on its way from ethereal spirituality to apparent substantiality. Only relative to such an infinitely towering level of Divinity are the spiritual “above” and the material “below” both dwarfed into equal insignificance. And, as part of this equality, just as the soul is able to be receptive to the radiance of the Divine Presence, so too is the body.

The Maamarim of the Alter Rebbe on the Parshiyos, p. 325

Eating and Drinking in the World to Come (iii)

Question: Will there be eating and drinking in Olam HaBa (“the World to Come”)?

Answer: The prophetic promises of the Tanach and the teachings of the Sages speak of three periods: (a) the Days of Mashiach; (b) Gan Eden (lit., “the Garden of Eden”); (c) the World which will follow the Resurrection of the Dead.

Parenthetically: It should be noted that (b) Gan Eden (“the World of Souls”) and (c) Olam HaTechiyah (“the World of Resurrection”) are both known as Olam HaBa (“the World to Come”) — and this has resulted in many misconceptions.

(a) Yemos HaMashiach (“the Days of Mashiach”): The Gemara35 records two views as to whether at that time the world will be conducted supernaturally, or whether “There will be no difference between this world and the Days of Mashiach except for [the Jewish people’s liberation from] subservience to the gentile nations.” Now, even though in general (as Rambam observes36 ) there are many particulars concerning this period that are not clarified explicitly in the revealed dimension of the Torah, it is nevertheless obvious that according to both the above views there will be eating and drinking and so forth in the days of Mashiach. This is affirmed by many verses and Talmudic teachings, and explicit in the Rambam.247 See also Iggeres HaKodesh by the Alter Rebbe, Epistle 26.

(b) Gan Eden: Since this is the abode of souls without bodies,37 eating and drinking are obviously irrelevant.

(c) Olam HaTechiyah (“the World of Resurrection”): Concerning this state, when embodied souls will be resurrected,38 our Sages taught that245 “In the World to Come there will be neither eating nor drinking; rather, the righteous will sit with crowns on their heads, and bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence.”

Now the Rambam39 holds that this statement refers to a state in which there is no body, while in the World of Resurrection there will be eating and drinking.40 In this he is consistent with his own conception, whereby the ultimate and principal reward will be granted in a world without bodies, because the soul is unable to receive its prodigious reward while clothed in a body. For the same reason, he also holds that those who will arise at the Resurrection of the Dead will later die, and thereafter arrive at Olam HaBa (“the World to Come”), which he defines as the state in which man’s divine service in this world is principally rewarded.41

Prominent scholars have differed from all facets of this conception of the Rambam. Foremost among them is the Ramban,42 who affirms “with clear proofs...that the Resurrection of the Dead is the ultimate destiny — and this is the truth according to the Kabbalah.”43 From this it necessarily follows that the above-quoted teaching245 — “In the World to Come there will be neither eating nor drinking; rather, the righteous will sit with crowns on their heads, and bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence” — which speaks of the ultimate reward, refers to the World of Resurrection.

Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe, Vol. II, p. 92

Ten Questions and Answers on the Resurrection of the Dead


Question 1: At what stage will the Resurrection of the Dead take place?

Answer 1: The Redemption will follow this sequence: the building of the Beis HaMikdash, the Ingathering of the Exiles, and — forty years later — the Resurrection of the Dead.

Question 2: Where will the Resurrection take place?

Answer 2: Both for those buried in Eretz Yisrael and for those buried outside the Land (to which the bodies will be brought by the angel Gavriel), the Resurrection will take place in Eretz Yisrael. For since G‑d swore that he would rebuild Jerusalem indestructibly, the soul will enter the body only in a place that will stand forever, so that the soul likewise will live in the body forever. (In this context, the entire Land of Israel is subsumed in Jerusalem.)

Question 3: Who will arise at the Resurrection of the Dead?

Answer 3: All of Israel, without exception, have a share in the World to Come45 (i.e., the Resurrection of the Dead). Even as to those of whom the Sages said that they do not have a share in the World to Come,256 this means that (a) their body will decompose, while the Divine soul, which is eternal, will be resurrected in a different body, and (b) they have no known and separate share, but they do derive benefit and sustenance from the storehouse of charitable bequests which are hidden away for those who were not found worthy of entering the World to Come.46

Question 4: In the case of a soul which descended to this world more than once, in which body will it be resurrected?

Answer 4: A body relates only to that part of the soul which was rectified when the body was alive. There is no problem in saying that a man has only “part” of a soul, for each part of the soul incorporates all of its components, which together constitute the stature of a complete soul.

Question 5: In what manner will the body be resurrected?

Answer 5: As a man leaves, so will he come — whether blind, deaf, clothed, or whatever; as G‑d says, “Let them arise as they left, and I shall heal them.” Some understand “clothed” as referring to the shrouds in which a man was buried, others understand it as referring to the clothes he was accustomed to wear.

Question 6: Will the entire Jewish people be resurrected simultaneously?

Answer 6: The first to be resurrected will be the dead of the Land of Israel, after them the dead of other lands, and then those who died in the wilderness (or, according to other views, the Patriarchs). Some hold that the order will be: the dead of the Land of Israel, after them the dead of other lands, and then “those who slumber in Hebron” (i.e., the Patriarchs) — in order that the fathers of the Jewish people should awaken in joy, when they behold their offspring who have arisen from their graves, in a world filled with righteous and pious folk.

The tzaddikim will take precedence over other men, and masters in the study of the Torah will take precedence over masters in the performance of the commandments. They will all be called by name in alphabetical order, except that the first to be resurrected will be those who are humble of spirit.

Question 7: What of the people who will be alive at the time of the Resurrection?

Answer 7: They too will die, and G‑d will immediately resurrect them, in order that no trace whatever should remain of the defilement of this world — so that there will be a new world, G‑d’s handiwork.

Question 8: How will the body be rebuilt?

Answer 8: One bone of the body remains. (Some hold that it is part of the spine: some say at the nape of the neck where the knot of the tefillin is placed, and others say that it is the lowest bone of the spine.) At the time of the Resurrection G‑d softens this bone with the Dew of the Resurrection: it serves as yeast to dough, and from it the entire body is reconstituted.

Question 9: Will there be trial and judgment after the Resurrection?

Answer 9: There are those who hold that following the Resurrection there will come the great Day of Judgment47 on which every man will be judged according to his deeds. Others hold that every man is judged immediately after his death, so that there is no reason for a further trial; these understand the future Day of Judgment as referring to a time of punishment and vengeance. Yet others hold that the Day of Judgment refers only to the nations of the world, not to Israel.

Question 10: How will life be after the Resurrection?

Answer 10: In the World to Come (the World of the Resurrection) there will be neither eating nor drinking, neither reproduction nor commerce, neither envy nor hatred nor competition; rather, the righteous will sit with crowns on their heads, and bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence. They will not return to their dust, but will live forever.

Teshuvos U’Biurim by the Rebbe, sec. 11