“I believe with perfect faith that the dead will be brought back to life when G‑d wills it to happen.”1

Rambam’s Definition

In his Discourse on the Resurrection,2 Rambam writes: “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.

“As I shall explain in the present discourse: Why should we not interpret these verses [regarding the Resurrection] allegorically, as we have done with many other Biblical verses, departing from their literal meaning? The reason is as follows: The concept of Resurrection, namely, that the soul will return to the body after death, is expressed by Daniel3 in such a manner that it cannot be interpreted other than literally: ‘Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awaken, some to everlasting life, and some to reproach and everlasting contempt.’ Daniel was likewise told by the angel,4 ‘Now go your way to the end and rest, and you shall arise to your destiny at the end of days.’”

The Talmud5 teaches that those who deny Resurrection will have no share in the World to Come, and Rambam in Mishneh Torah6 rules that this teaching has the authority of Halachah.

Selections from the Talmud

[R. Elazar HaKapar7 ] used to say: “Those who are born are destined to die: those who are dead are destined to live again” (another version: ‘to be resurrected’).”

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All8 Israel have a share in the World to Come....9 The following, however, have no share therein: He who maintains that Resurrection is not a Biblical doctrine....10

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How11 is Resurrection deduced from the Torah?12

It is written,13 “Of [these tithes] you shall give G‑d’s heave-offering to Aharon the priest.” But would Aharon live forever?! After all, he did not enter the Land of Israel and thereby make it possible that terumah be given to him! Rather, this verse teaches that he will ultimately be resurrected, and the Jewish people will give him terumah....14

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R. Simai11 says: “Whence do we learn Resurrection from the Torah? — From the verse,15 ‘And I also have established My covenant with them (i.e., the Patriarchs) to give them the Land of Canaan.’ The verse does not say ‘to give you’ but ‘to give them.’ [Since, as Rashi points out, 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.”

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Sectarians11 asked Rabban Gamliel: “From where do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead?”

He answered them from the Torah, the Prophets and the Hagiographa....

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Queen11 Cleopatra said to R. Meir: “I know that the dead will live again, for it is written,16 ‘And they shall blossom out of the city like grass from the earth’;17 but when they arise, will they arise naked or clothed?”

He replied, “You may deduce the answer by observing a wheat grain.18 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.”

An11 emperor said to Rabban Gamliel: “You maintain that the dead will live again; but they turn to dust — and can dust come to life?!”

Thereupon the [emperor’s] daughter19 said to [Rabban Gamliel]: “Here, let me answer him. In our town there are two potters: one fashions his vessels from water, 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,20 surely he can do so from clay.”21

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According22 to the School of R. Yishmael, [in the above exchange the emperor’s daughter answered her father with] a different analogy: If glassware, made by the breath of mere flesh and blood, can be reconstituted when shattered, then how much more so man, who was created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.

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A22 sectarian challenged R. Ami: “You maintain that the dead will live again; but they turn to dust — and can dust come to life?!”

He replied, “Let me offer you a parable. A mortal king commanded his servants to build him great palaces in a place where there was neither water nor earth [for making bricks]. They went and built them. After some time they collapsed, so he commanded them to rebuild them in a place which did have water and earth, but they said, ‘We cannot.’ The king was indignant: ‘If you could build in a place that had neither water nor earth, surely you can build in a place where there is!’”23

R. Ami concluded: “And if you do not believe [that G‑d can form creatures from dust], go out to the field and you will see a certain mouse; today it is part flesh and part dust,24 and yet by tomorrow it has become entirely flesh. And should you say that this metamorphosis takes a long time [‘and hence argue that G‑d does not revive the dead in an instant’ — Rashi], go up to the mountain; there you will see but one snail, whilst after tomorrow’s rain the mountain will be covered with snails [‘which are generated immediately’ — Rashi].”

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A22 sectarian said to Geviha ben Pesisa: “Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain that the dead will revive! The living indeed die, but shall the dead live?!”

He replied: “Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain the dead will not revive. If those who never lived, now live, surely those who have lived, will live again!”

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Resh Lakish25 contrasted two verses: “One verse promises,26 ‘I will gather them in...; among them there will be the blind and the lame, the woman with child together with the woman in labor.’ Another verse, however, states:27 “Then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing, for waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.’ How so? — They shall rise with their defects28 and then be healed.”

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Ulla25 contrasted two verses: “It is written,29 ‘He will destroy death forever, and G‑d will wipe away tears from all faces,’ whilst elsewhere it is written,30 ‘For a child shall die a hundred years old....’ However, this presents no difficulty: one verse refers to Jews, the other to heathens. But what business have heathens there? — The reference is to those of whom it is written,31 ‘And strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.’”32

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Rava25 also contrasted two quotations: “It is written,33 ‘I kill, and I make alive.’ [Rashi: ‘This implies that a man is resurrected in the same state (e.g., wounded) as he was at the time of death.’] The same verse goes on to say, ‘I have wounded, and I heal!’ [Rashi: ‘This implies that a wounded man is resurrected whole.’] Yet there is no contradiction here, for in this verse the Holy One, blessed be He, is saying: ‘What I kill I make alive’ [i.e., in the same state], and ‘What I have wounded, I then heal.’”34

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On25 the verse,33 “I kill, and I make alive,” our Sages commented: “One might understand this to mean, ‘I kill one person and give life to another,’ as is the way of the world, [‘so that one man dies and another is born’ — Rashi]. The same verse therefore goes on to say, ‘I have wounded, and I heal.’ Just as wounding and healing [obviously] refer to the same person, so putting to death and bringing to life refer to the same person. This is an answer to those who maintain that Resurrection is not intimated in the Torah.”

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R. Meir25 said: “From where do we learn Resurrection from the Torah? — From the verse,35 אז ישיר משה (‘Moshe and the Children of Israel then sang this song to G‑d’). The literal meaning of the verb is not ‘sang’ but ‘shall sing.’ Thus Techiyas HaMeisim is taught in the Torah.”36

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R. Yehoshua ben Levi25 said: “Where is Resurrection derived from the Torah? — From the verse,37 אשרי יושבי ביתך, עוד יהללוך סלה (‘Happy are those who dwell in Your house; they shall praise You forever’). The verse does not say, ‘they praised You,’ but ‘they shall praise you.’ Thus Techiyas HaMeisim is taught in the Torah.

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R. Chiya bar Abba25 said in the name of R. Yochanan: “Where in the Torah do we learn of Resurrection? — From the verse,38 ‘The voice of your watchmen is raised aloft: together shall they sing.’ The verb ארננו does not mean ‘sang’ but ‘shall sing’. Here, then, is a source in the Torah for Techiyas HaMeisim.”

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Rava39 said: “Where is Resurrection derived from the Torah? — From the verse,40 ‘May Reuven live and not die.’ [This seeming repetition implies:] ‘May Reuven live in this world, and not die in the next.”

Ravina said it is derived from this verse:3 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awaken, some to everlasting life, and some to reproach and everlasting contempt.”41

R. Ashi said it is derived from this verse:4 “Now go your way to the end and rest, and you shall arise to your destiny at the end of days.”

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R. Tavi39 said in the name of R. Yoshia: “What do we learn from the following text?42 ‘There are three things that are never satisfied:... the grave and the womb....’ How comes the grave next to the womb? — This juxtaposition teaches you that just as the womb takes in and gives forth again, so the grave takes in and will give forth again. Moreover, if the womb which takes in silently gives forth with loud noise [i.e., the crying of the infant], does it not stand to reason that the grave which takes in with a loud noise [i.e., the wailing of the mourners], will give forth [those who are revived] with a loud noise?43 Here is an answer for those who deny that Techiyas HaMeisim is taught in the Torah.”

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Tanna dvei Eliyahu39 states: “The righteous whom G‑d will resurrect will not revert to dust, for it is said,44 ‘And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and he who remains in Jerusalem shall be called holy: everyone in Jerusalem who is inscribed for life.’ Just as the Holy One endures forever, so too shall they endure forever.”

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Three45 keys have not been entrusted to an agent: the keys to birth, rain and Resurrection.46

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R. Eleazar47 said: “The illiterate will not be resurrected, for it is written,48 ‘The dead will not live...,’ but since this might be assumed to refer to all, the verse goes on to say, ‘The shades of the dead (רפאים) shall not rise,’ thus alluding specifically to him who is lax (מרפה עצמו) in studying the words of the Torah.”

Said R. Yochanan to him: “It gives no satisfaction to their Master that you should speak of such people in this manner.49 That text speaks of a man who was so lax as to worship idols!”

Replied [R. Elazar]: “Then let me base my exposition [to the same effect] on another text. It is written,50 ‘[Your dead shall live, my dead body shall arise; awake and sing, you who repose in the dust.] For Your dew is a dew of light, and the earth shall cast down the shades of the dead.’ This means that he who makes use of the light of the Torah, him will the light51 of the Torah revive, but as to him who does not make use of the light of the Torah, him will the light of the Torah not revive.”

Observing however, that [R. Yochanan] was [still] distressed, [R. Elazar] said to him: “Master, I have found a remedy for [the illiterate] in the Torah, for it is written,52 ‘But you who cleave to the L‑rd your G‑d are all alive today.’ Now is it possible to cleave to the Divine Presence, concerning Whom it is written,53 ‘For the L‑rd your G‑d is a consuming fire’?! The meaning is this: Any man who marries his daughter to a scholar, invests on behalf of scholars, or benefits scholars from
his estate is regarded by the Torah as if he had cleaved to the Divine Presence.”

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R. Chiya bar Yosef47 said: “A time will come when the righteous will break through the soil and rise up in Jerusalem, for it is written,16 ‘And they shall blossom out of the city like grass from the earth’17 — and ‘city’ can allude only to Jerusalem, as in the phrase,54 ‘For I shall defend this city.’”