The existence of a life after death is a necessary corollary of the Jewish belief in a just and merciful and ethical God.

God is Just

The Jew is caught in a dilemma: He believes that God is righteous and just—He rewards the good and punishes the wicked. Yet, for all the strength of his belief, he lives in a world where he sees that life is unfair. He sees all too often the spiritual anomaly of zaddik vera lo, rasha vetov lo, the righteous who suffer and the wicked who prosper. The sages answer by saying that there is spiritual reward and spiritual punishment. The answer that religion gives is that the good, just, and eternal God revives the righteous dead, while the wicked remain in the dust. It is in life-after-death at which time the just God balances the scales and rewards or punishes those who truly deserve it. This doctrine of resurrection is, thus, a necessary corollary of our belief in a just God.

God Is Merciful

But if we ask of God only that He be just, can we expect that we ourselves will be resurrected? Who is so righteous as to be assured of that glorious reward? Hence we call upon God's mercy that He revive us. The concept of resurrection is an affirmation of His mercy. Thus, Joseph Albo, a fifteenth-century philosopher, notes that in the prayerbook the concept of resurrection is associated with rachamin rabim, "great mercy," whereas God's gift of life and sustenance are considered only then, chessed and rachamim, "grace, kindness and mercy." Says Rabbi Albo: "The life of man is divided into three portions: The years of rise and growth, the middle years or the plateau, and the years of decline." These are described by the three adjectives grace, kindness and mercy. While one is young and vigorous one does not require an extra measure of assistance from God in being nourished. All that he needs is chen, Divine grace. In the second portion of life, man grows older, but he is still able and strong. He needs more than just Divine grace, he needs God's kindness, chessed. In the declining years, he is weak, dependent on others, and in desperate need of more than grace and kindness. He now needs rachamim, God's mercy. But there is also a fourth portion of life: life after death. For this man requires more than grace, kindness and mercy. He needs rachamim rabim, "great mercy"! Thus, in Albo's scheme, resurrection is only a natural, further development of God's providence. In the words of the prayerbook: Mechalkel chayim bechessed, mechayeh metim berachamim rabim. "He sustains the living with kindness and revives the dead with great mercy."

God as an Ethical Personality

The concept of life-after-death also follows from a belief in God as the God of goodness. A great teacher of our generation supports this by citing the amidah prayer in the daily prayerbook, "You support the falling, and heal the sick, and free those who are bound up, and keep your faith with those who sleep in the dust." The prayerbook lists a series of evils that befall man, and asserts that God will save man from them. Those who "fall" suffer financial failure, a defect in the structure of society. We believe that God who is good will overcome that defect. He will "support the falling." Worse than that is sickness, which is a flaw in the physical nature of man. We believe that God is good and will not tolerate such an evil forever. He will heal the sick. Worse yet is the disease of slavery, the sickness which man wishes upon his fellowman. God will overcome this, too, for He not only supports the falling and heals the sick, He is the great emancipator of man. The worst evil of all, however, the meanest scandal, the vilest disgrace to that being created in the image of God, is death, the end to all hope and all striving. But we believe in an ethical and good God. As He prevailed over the evils of lifetime, so will He prevail over the final evil, that of death. Thus, we conclude, you who support and heal, and free, will also keep your faith with those who are dead.