Will There Be Eating and Drinking?

Rav, one of the prominent Talmudic Sages, used to teach:1 “[The World to Come will not be like this world.] In the World to Come, there will be no eating nor drinking nor procreation2 nor business nor envy nor hatred nor competition; rather, the righteous will sit with their crowns on their heads3 and delight in the radiance of the Divine Presence, as in the verse,4 ‘They beheld G‑d, and they ate and drank.’ ” (Rashi understands this last phrase to mean that the Jews at Sinai were just as sated by the radiance of the Divine Presence as if they had eaten and drunk.)

Chapter 3 above has already discussed the difference in conception between Rambam and other thinkers as to the meaning of the “World to Come.” According to Rambam, the above description refers to the presently-existing World of [disembodied] Souls, whereas in the future World of the Resurrection there will be eating and drinking and so on.5 However, most authorities6 hold that Rav is saying that after the Resurrection, though souls will then be reinvested in bodies, there will be no eating and drinking.7

In response to this majority opinion, Rambam argues8 that it is absurd to consider that G‑d would create a body equipped to perform physical functions such as digestion and reproduction in an era in which they will be extinct. One of the fundamental principles of the faith is that G‑d does not create anything without a purpose. If there will be no need for physical functions, there will be no purpose for a physical body.

Ramban in Shaar HaGemul9 refutes this argument at length. Firstly, there would be nothing novel in Rav’s teaching if he was simply referring to the World of Souls. Moreover, after the Resurrection the body will attain the status of the soul, and will be sustained by spiritual sources rather than physical ones. This phenomenon is not new: Moshe Rabbeinu experienced it when he spent forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai.

The above view of Ramban is supported in the teachings of chassidic philosophy.10 The Rebbe explains11 that in this world body and soul are connected by means of food and drink, whereas in the World to Come, the body itself will derive sustenance from the light of the Shechinah. At the same time, this does not mean that there will be no eating or drinking. Rav’s statement, that in the World to Come there will be no eating or drinking, means that eating and drinking will not then be necessary to keep soul and body together. However, there may be eating and drinking, though for a different purpose.12

The above explanation also resolves a seeming contradiction in the Talmud. On the one hand it is taught13 that in the World to Come, G‑d will prepare a festive meal for the righteous with the meat of the Leviathan, and most authorities understand this not as a metaphor but as an actual feast.14 If so, does this not contradict the teaching of Rav with which this chapter opened?

In an attempt to accommodate both positions, some authorities maintain that this meal will take place in the Messianic era that precedes the Resurrection.15 However, according to those who maintain that it refers to the time of the Resurrection, how can there possibly be physical eating?16 According to the above explanation, however, although in the World to Come eating will not be needed to fuse body and soul, it will still remain a possibility — though for a different and higher purpose, such as the feast of the Leviathan.17

Will there be a Day of Judgment after the Resurrection?

1. Ramban18 answers Yes: on that Day every individual will be judged according to his deeds.

2. Abarbanel19 argues that since everyone is judged after death, there is no reason for any additional judgment after the Resurrection. When the Sages speak of a Day of Judgment in time to come, i.e., after the Resurrection, they mean a day of punishment and revenge — but not of further judgment.

3. The AriZal20 says that once a soul has already won atonement by experiencing Yom Kippur, and suffering, and reincarnation,21 there is no reason that it should be judged further on a Day of Judgment. Rather, the classical references to the Day of Judgment speak of the judgment of the nations of the world.

Will Death Survive the Resurrection?

After the Resurrection, death will be no more.22 Even according to the literal understanding23 of the verse,24 “for [at that time] the youngest will die a hundred years old,” it does not apply to the Jewish people, for whom death will no longer exist. It refers to Noachides,25 and even then, not to actual death, but to death as a metaphor signifying a fall in the level of one’s spiritual attainment.26

How Long will the World Exist?

There is a well-known teaching of R. Katina,27 “The world will exist for 6000 years and for/in one [thousand] will be destroyed, as it is written,28 ‘And G‑d will be exalted alone on that day.’ ”

Some commentators suggest29 that the destruction is literal: after 7000 years the universe will revert to its original state of nothingness. Others hold30 that this is a reference to the era of Resurrection: the Evil Inclination will then be destroyed and removed from the world and there will be no more observance of the mitzvos. Still others31 interpret the “one of destruction” as a reference to one of the six millennia. (If so, this could well be a reference to the millennium of upheaval in which we are living.) There is also a debate as to whether the Halachah confirms the statement of R. Katina32 or not.33 Indeed, the Kabbalists speak of 50,000 Jubilee cycles through which the world will proceed in its process of elevation.34