“I shall bestow glory upon the land of life.”1

Digest of a Debate

Both those buried in the Land of Israel and those buried in the Diaspora will be resurrected in the Land of Israel. Why should this be necessarily so?

The Gemara records a classic exchange on this subject, conducted entirely on the non-literal level of Biblical interpretation known as derush.

It opens with the following declaration by R. Eleazar:2 “The dead of the Diaspora will not be resurrected, for it is written,3 ונתתי צהי בארץ חיים — ‘I shall bestow glory upon the land of life.’ [This implies that] the dead of the land which houses [G‑d’s] glory shall be resurrected; the dead of a land which does not house [G‑d’s] glory shall not be resurrected.”

To this R. Abba bar Mamal objects: “It is also written,4 יחיו מתיך, נבלתי יקומון — ‘The dead men of your people shall live; my dead body shall arise.’ Does not ‘the dead men of your people’ refer to the dead of the Land of Israel, and ‘my dead body’ refer to the dead of the Diaspora?”

After noting the reactions of these two Sages to other verses that their colleagues then cite in support of either stance, the Gemara asks: Is it not unthinkable to suggest (as does R. Eleazar) that the righteous buried in the Diaspora will not be resurrected?

R. Ilaa answers this by saying that they will be resurrected “through gilgul”; i.e., their bodies will be (lit.) rolled through the ground.5

The question is then asked, “But is this not painful for the righteous?”

To this Abbaye answers: “Subterranean channels (mechilos) will be made for them.”6

This, however, raises a question: If the righteous dead of the Diaspora will be included in the Resurrection, why did Yaakov and Yosef wish to be buried in the Land of Israel?7 The answer is given, that they were not sure that they would be found worthy of being brought there through the subterranean channels.8


Which of these two positions does the Halachah define as authoritative?

The author of Nodah BiYehudah9 rules (though without citing proof) according to the view of R. Abba, that those buried in the Diaspora will also merit Resurrection. However, since the discussion of the Talmud is based on the statement of R. Eleazar, and is supported by many of his colleagues, then according to the principles by which the Halachah is derived from the Talmud,10 the Halachah is established according to his view. And indeed, this ruling is backed by sources in the Jerusalem Talmud,11 the Midrash,12 and numerous statements in the Zohar.13

According to this opinion, the body will be reconstructed in the Diaspora, and only after making its way to the Land of Israel through the underground tunnels will it be invested with a soul.14

Moreover, since the Gemara says that the righteous buried in the Diaspora will be found worthy of gilgul, this implies that even according to R. Eleazar, the verse, “I shall bestow glory...” does not exclude the Resurrection of the dead of the Diaspora. It only tells us that the Resurrection will take place in the Land of Israel, so that all those who are brought there may also be termed the “dead of the Land of Israel” (with the difference that the righteous will be brought there painlessly by gilgul). When understood in this way, the view of R. Eleazar is in harmony with the universally-accepted statement of the Sages in Sanhedrin, that “all Israel have a share in the World to Come.”15

The Resurrection: Why in the Land of Israel?

The Zohar16 relates that R. Yehudah the son of R. Elazar asked this question of R. Chizkiyah: “The dead that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will resurrect, — Why will He not return to them their souls in the place in which they were buried and then bring them to live in the Land of Israel?”

R. Chizkiyah answered: “The A-mighty has sworn to build Jerusalem and never to destroy it, for R. Yirmeyah has said: ‘The Holy One, Blessed be He, will reconstruct His world and build Jerusalem and lower it ready built from above17 so that it shall never be destroyed; moreover, He has sworn that He will never again send Israel into exile, and He has sworn never to destroy Jerusalem.’18 ...The dead will thus receive their souls in a place that will exist forever so that the soul will exist in a body forever.”

The Midrash teaches, moreover, that in time to come Jerusalem will diffuse its sanctity over the whole of the Land of Israel, and the Land of Israel will diffuse its sanctity over the whole world.19