This letter was published in Kovetz Lubavitch. From the letters that were published together with it, it appears that it was written in the summer of 5705. In this instance as well, the Rebbe restates the query posed by the questioner.

Please explain: a) The particular dimensions of the Resurrection. It is a fundamental concept in the Jewish faith, and yet, the particular dimensions involving it are not explained as completely as necessary.

b) We can understand the general concept concerning the Resurrection: that the soul remains and continues to exist. Since the soul is spiritual, “an actual part of G‑d from above,”1 the part resembles the whole, [and is thus eternal as He is]. What however forces us to say that the soul will be resurrected in a physical body and what is the advantage in that?

Mr. Elchonan Cohen, New York

Reply: We have seen this topic discussed and researched by our leading Sages, but these concepts are scattered in several sources. I will present some of our Sages’ statements concerning this matter with additional explanations as is necessary to reply to your questions. Nevertheless, it is first necessary to resolve the question of those who protest: Why are these matters discussed at all? Why cannot we suffice with the declaration made everyday: “Behold I believe with complete faith that there will be a resurrection of the dead”? They support their complaint with Rambam’s statements (in his interpretation of the mishnah:2 “All Israel have a share in the World to Come”):

You will find few... who contemplate what is meant by this term [the World to Come], [questioning]: “Is it the ultimate good?”... or who differentiate between the ultimate good and a means that leads to this purpose. Instead, the entire people, the masses, and the men of understanding ask: “Will the dead arise naked or clothed?... Will there be wealthy people and indigent?”

Certainly, Rambam is not complaining that people ask such questions. For we find several places in the Talmud and the Midrashim of our Sages that these matters are discussed by our leading Sages. Instead, his objection is that people are not trying to understand the core of the concept of the World to Come and the Resurrection and instead, content themselves with asking about matters like those mentioned above. Based on Rambam’s statements at the beginning of his Iggeres Techiyas HaMeisim, it appears that his intent in his commentary to the mishnah cited above is that people discuss only [the superficial dimensions of] the Resurrection — “Will they arise naked?” — but they forget entirely about the World to Come (which according to Rambam comes after the Resurrection). Therefore I will answer these questions according to my humble capacity, beginning in the order of importance, with the second question, and proceeding to the first.

* * *

I) What forces us to say that the soul will be resurrected in a physical body and what is the advantage in that?3

[The resolution of this question] can be understood through the preface of the explanation of the concept of the Resurrection. On this basis, it will be apparent why the Resurrection will involve the soul being enclothed in a body.

[To explain:] There are two dimensions of the Resurrection as it affects a person’s life:

a) it is an attainment in the perfection of the human species;

b) it is an attainment in [man’s] acceptance of reward for conducting himself according to the will of his Creator.

* * *

In truth, these two points are identical. For a person (and similarly, every other particular element of creation) was brought into being in a manner that enables him to ascend rung after rung on the ladder of fulfillment and perfection. [Indeed,] we have been commanded to commit ourselves to this endeavor (through [our Divine service in] the Torah and its mitzvos, as will be explained). When a person comes as close as possible to fulfillment on his own initiative, he is given assistance from above that surpasses his own capacity, as alluded to in our Sages’ statement (Yoma 39a): “When a person sanctifies himself slightly through his own initiative in this world, he is sanctified greatly from above in the World to Come.”

[To explain the above in the mystic terminology of] the Zohar, as explained by the teachings of Chassidus Chabad: There is an arousal from above which awakens the arousal from below, then there is the arousal from below, and then an arousal from above that follows the arousal from below.

Giving a reward involves giving the recipient something that brings benefit to him. Accordingly, it is understood that the greatness and the true nature of the reward can be measured through the good that comes about as a result.

For example, a worker receives bread to eat and clothing to wear4 as his wages. A student attends to his teacher, and his teacher instructs him with knowledge as a reward. [Or on a higher plane,] a student attends to his teacher, and his teacher shows him the purpose for his existence and the path to follow for that purpose to be realized.

Spiritual possessions are on a higher level than material possessions. And eternal happiness is higher than both of them. Thus it is understood that teaching wisdom is a greater reward than food, and an even greater reward is instruction in a way to live [that leads to] eternal life.

There are many levels of good, some of which can be comprehended by us, and some of which we cannot comprehend.5 The common denominator among them is that either the body or the soul derives pleasure from them or through them. Since both the body and the soul are limited creations, the pleasure they receive is limited. Thus the reward is of a limited nature.

Above all of this is a man’s fulfillment of the mitzvos of his Creator which enable him to become more refined and more fulfilled. His observance of the mitzvos connects him to the Commander who ordered the observance of the mitzvos, the Creator who is without limit or boundary. And there is no greater good than the connection and the bond between a mortal, a created being, and his Creator. Thus the observance of a mitzvah itself is the greatest possible reward, as evident from the interpretation of our Sages’ statement:6 “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.”

* * *

In G‑d’s great kindness to man, He showed him and explained in detail the path man should follow to attain perfection. This path is given us and explained by the Torah [whose name means] “instruction” and which encompasses a person’s entire life, from his first moment onward. For the perfection of every entity is dependent on the extent to which it strives and adapts itself toward the purpose for which it was created.

The rationale and the purpose for the creation of the world as a whole7 and man in particular is that the Holy One, blessed be He, desires to have a dwelling in the lower realms.8 These realms are “lower” with regard to their spiritual level and rung, for with regard to G‑d it is not proper to speak of things being higher or lower physically. [The intent is that although they are] yesh, material entities with a conception of self, they will be butel. Through this, G‑d’s infinite light will rest upon them and be revealed through them.

This bittul is the ultimate purpose and the foundation of the Torah and its mitzvos, as it is written (Devarim 6:24): “And G‑d commanded us to perform all these statutes to fear G‑d.”9 The Torah and its mitzvos were given on the material plane, involving material entities and the soul as it is enclothed in a physical body to transform the yesh into ayin, making them mediums for G‑dliness.

A person was commanded to carry out his observance according to his powers and potentials, [proceeding] slowly, from easier objectives to more difficult ones. Just as the levels which he attains, rising from strength to strength, climbing from one level to another, [follow a pattern of gradual ascent]; so, too, the reward given him [comes in stages]. He is given the power to receive his reward, i.e., he is refined and trained step by step to receive spiritual light and G‑dly revelation — for this is the true reward — in a continually increasing pattern.

Occasionally, we find exceptions to this pattern, unique events where there was a revelation of light that surpassed the capacity [of the recipients], e.g., the Exodus from Egypt, the Giving of the Torah, or the like. [The general pattern, however, is one of gradual revelation.]

The rationale [for this sequentional pattern] is that the fundamental dimension of the creation at large is continually proceeding to refinement and fulfillment. (At the present time, the lowest levels of the creation — the feet and the heels — are being refined. And thus our Sages commented — Shabbos 112b — “If [the Sages] of the early generation were like angels, we are like men.”)

There may be portions of the creation that fall from their level from time to time. This is particularly true in situations where man, who possesses free choice, is involved. For he has the potential to choose evil, in which instance he and the portion of the world designated for him and dependent on his Divine service fall from their level. [This continues] until he turns to G‑d in teshuvah at which time he elevates himself and everything dependent on him to the previous level, and indeed higher. [This process of refinement] is however concealed. In the Future Era, this will be revealed.

In general, there are three eras [in this sequence]: the present era, the era of Mashiach, and the era of the Resurrection. The present era is a time of conflict between the yesh and the spiritual, the good and the bad. “The might shall pass from one to the other.”10 Sometimes, the side of good will be victorious and sometimes....

The era of Mashiach will take place after the Jewish people will have completed this conflict, having refined the good from the bad, separated the bad from the good, and departed from exile.11 They will then reach the perfection of man’s [potential], as man existed before the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge.12 Then the Jewish people will no longer be under the dominion of the Tree of Good and Evil. Nevertheless, the sitra achra13willstill exist in the world, in the “mixed multitude.” It is understood that, as a consequence, the perfection of the Jewish people will also be lacking. Therefore all those who are alive in the era of Mashiach will die and only afterwards, be resurrected, as will be explained.

It is possible to explain that this level of perfection can be attained by a person by virtue of his own Divine service and through the reward that is given him which is correspondent to that Divine service.

Throughout the era of Mashiach, through their Divine service, the Jewish people will continue to ascend the ladder of perfection. Therefore, the era of Mashiach will still follow the motif “Today to observe them,”14 [i.e., to practice the Torah and its mitzvos].15 On the contrary, it is the fundamental time for this observance and the era when it will reach its ultimate perfection.16

The era of the Resurrection will be characterized by additional [refinement]. The spirit of impurity will be removed entirely from the earth,17 and there will be no sin or death in the world. For “the Holy One, blessed be He, will slaughter the evil inclination,”18 which is “the angel of death.”19 Then man will reach his ultimate state of perfection, a level not at all proportionate to his Divine service or the reward for it. Instead, it is endowed from above. Therefore the mitzvos will be nullified in the era of the Resurrection.20 “The righteous will sit with their crowns on their heads and luxuriate in the radiance of the Divine presence.”21 For after mankind has reached the ultimate level of perfection, it will receive an exalted reward that surpasses our conception entirely. This is alluded to by the expression “with their crowns on their heads and luxuriate in the radiance of the Divine presence.” (In other sources,22 the meaning of this allusion has been explained, but it is not of great relevance to the present discussion.) This reward will be given to the soul as it is enclothed in the body. For that era will represent the ultimate perfection of the creation of this world, the purpose for which it was created at the outset: to be a dwelling for G‑d on this lowly plane.

* * *

The above concludes the explanation of the era of Mashiach and the era of the Resurrection with regard to the perfection of humanity as a whole. With regard to [the distinction between] their levels with regard to the knowledge of G‑d, the revelation of G‑dly light, comprehending it and feeling it, an explanation can be given23 based on the preface of the verse (Iyov 19:26): “From my flesh, I perceive G‑dliness.” As our Sages state (Berachos 10a): “Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, fills the world; so, too, the soul fills the body.”

[To develop that analogy:] There are two elements of the soul’s life energy which fills the body: a) One which undergoes changes according to the nature of the body’s limbs. It enclothes itself within them as an internal light, limited according to [the makeup of] each limb, from the power of intellect in the head until the potential to walk in the legs.

b) [The second corresponds to] the power of will which exists in the entire body, but does not undergo change according to [the nature of] the different parts of the body to enclothe itself within them as an internal light according to their makeup. Instead, it rests within them as an encompassing light.

Above both these [expressions of the soul] is the soul itself, a single, simple, spiritual essence.24

Man, because of the material nature of his physical body that conceals, is unable to grasp the nature of spirituality. This includes even the spiritual qualities that are actually enclothed within him, i.e., the soul and its powers, even those which are internalized. Nevertheless, through their effects, he can appreciate that they exist.

Similar concepts apply to the analogue, the Infinite One, blessed be He. He:

a) fills all the worlds; this refers to the Divine presence which actually enclothes itself in the inner dimension of the worlds and undergoes change according to their different levels;

b) encompasses all the worlds; this light is actually within the worlds, but it does not undergo change according to their different levels, but instead rests upon them as an encompassing light.

And above both these levels is G‑d’s essence which is not with the framework of worlds at all.

Each of the above levels itself subdivides into many different levels. I have made a general statement touching only on what is necessary for the matter at hand.

Just as with regard to the analogy, [similarly, with regard to the analogue,] it is impossible for us to grasp the nature of the G‑dly light in this material world. This applies even to the light that fills the worlds. Nevertheless, through its effects, one can appreciate and feel that it exists. As it is written (Yeshayahu 40:6): “Lift your eyes upward and see who created these.”

There is increased [awareness] in Gan Eden, i.e., the afterlife of the souls where there is no physical body to conceal; we grasp the nature of the light which fills the worlds.

There will be even greater [awareness] in the era of Mashiach when the material nature [of the world] will be refined. The image of G‑d will shine within man as it did before the Sin [of the Tree of Knowledge]. Moreover, there will be revelations of the light which encompasses all the worlds.

Surpassing all the above will be the era of the Resurrection, [the World to Come]. It will represent the ultimate perfection of this world. The essence of G‑d, the Ein Sof, blessed be He, itself will be revealed.

Having explained the concept of the Resurrection of the Dead in general, I will proceed to explain its particulars based on the statements of our Sages.

* * *

II) The particular dimensions of the Resurrection of the Dead:

Its Time: “It has been taught: [The building of] the Beis HaMikdash will precede the ingathering of the exiles25 and the ingathering of the exiles will precede the resurrection of the dead.... It has been taught: The ingathering of the exiles will precede the resurrection of the dead by 40 years” (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 139a; see also p. 134a).

Its Place: Both the souls of the dead buried in Eretz Yisrael and the souls of those buried in the Diaspora will return to their bodies in Eretz Yisrael.

What is the source for this? Kesuvos 111a states:

Rabbi Elazar states: “The dead in the Diaspora will not be resurrected, as it is written:26 ‘I will bestow splendor on the land of life.’ In the land where My splendor is [manifest], the dead will be resurrected. Where My splendor is not [manifest], the dead will not be resurrected.”...

According to Rabbi Elazar, will the righteous in the Diaspora not be resurrected? Rabbi Ila’a states: [They will be resurrected] through turning. (Their bones will turn over until they reach Eretz Yisrael and then they will be resurrected there.)27

Turning over will be painful for the righteous?

Abbaye responds: “Pathways will be made for them in the earth (in which they will proceed to Eretz Yisrael.28 There they will burst through the ground and emerge).25

Since even the righteous buried in the Diaspora will be resurrected, we are forced to say that, according to the Talmud’s conclusion, Rabbi Elazar’s interpretation of the verse: “I will bestow splendor...” applies not to the place where the death and the burial took place, but rather [underscores that] the place of resurrection will be Eretz Yisrael alone. Even those who will come to Eretz Yisrael through the underground pathways are called “the dead of Eretz Yisrael,” for the soul will not be bestowed upon their bodies until they emerge in Eretz Yisrael, as will be explained.

Based on the above, there is no necessity or proof that the place where a person is buried is relevant to the resurrection of the dead. If so, it is possible to explain that Rabbi Elazar also agrees that those buried in the Diaspora will be resurrected. Indeed, one can understand simply the interpretation given by the Shaloh (Shaar HaOsios, the conclusion of Os Kuf): “Rabbi Elazar states: ‘The dead in the Diaspora will be resurrected only after [their bones] turn over [and are brought to Eretz Yisrael].’” The righteous will merit the underground passageways and will not undergo the pain of [their bones] turning over until [they are brought to] Eretz Yisrael. Others who are not as righteous [will undergo this ordeal]. All, however, will ultimately come to Eretz Yisrael — and they will then be considered “the dead of Eretz Yisrael” and they will be resurrected.29

This [explanation] enables even Rabbi Elazar to accept the simple interpretation of the mishnah (Sanhedrin 90a): “All Israel have a portion in the World to Come.” It also resolves the question raised by Tosafos, Sotah 5a, s.v. Kol.

Rav Abba bar Mamal differs with Rabbi Elazar (Kesuvos, loc. cit.) and maintains that the dead in the Diaspora will also be resurrected. Nevertheless, since several Amoraim mentioned in that passage either agree with Rabbi Elazar or engage in debate based on his thesis, we can conclude that it is accepted as halachah,30 as is well known with regard to the general principles [used to derive halachah from] the Talmud.31

Who will arise in the Resurrection of the Dead? “All Israel have a portion in the World to Come (i.e., the Resurrection of the Dead).... These are the ones who do not have a portion in the World to Come: One who states that the Resurrection of the Dead does not have Scriptural basis” (Sanhedrin 90a). Rambam elaborates on this concept in his Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah, ch. 3.

I discussed this subject at length in the section Teshuvos U’Biurim in this Kovetz, Issues 6 and 7.32 [There is no need to] repeat those statements here.33

Souls Which Already Existed in the World and Their Bodies:

Rav Chizkiyah asked: “If you say that all the bodies of the world will be resurrected and arise from the dust, what will be with those bodies in which a soul was implanted (i.e., a soul was incarnated in one body and then reincarnated in a second body)?”

Rabbi Yossi replied: “Those bodies [that did not merit and did not succeed will be as if they never existed]” (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 131a; Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 40).

The AriZal explains these statements (Shaar HaGilgulim, Introduction 4):

If during one’s first lifetime,... he did not merit to perfect the soul entirely [before] he died... at the time of the Resurrection, that body will receive only that particular portion of the soul that it perfected during its lifetime. Therefore when the soul is reincarnated a second time to complete its perfection... the dimensions of the soul that were perfected in this second body... will be [manifest] in the second body at the time of the resurrection.... This parallels the concepts explained with regard to the elder sage in Parshas Mishpatim (Zohar, Vol. II, p. 100a) or with regard to the concept of yibbum.34

One should not question the AriZal’s explanation, noting that if so, there will be some people who will have only a portion of a soul and not an entire soul. For this [concept] should be made known: Every portion of the soul includes within it all the other portions and thus every element is itself an entire structure. Nevertheless, because it is part of a soul that is more encompassing, it is only one element.35

We see an even greater concept. It is explained that all of the souls as they exist as a general entity were in fact one soul, the soul of Adam the first man. This is alluded to by our Sages’ statement (Shmos Rabbah 40:3): “While Adam the first man was lying as a lifeless entity, the Holy One, blessed be He, showed him each and every righteous man who would descend from him. There were those dependent on his head; others, on his hair.” See also Tanya, chs. 2 and 37, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 7, et al.

The Manner [of the Resurrection]: “In the manner in which a person departed, he will return. If he departed blind, he will return blind. If he departed deaf, he will return deaf. If he departed dumb, he will return dumb. Just as he departed clothed, he will return clothed. The Holy One, blessed be He, says: ‘They shall arise as they departed, and then I will heal them’” (Bereishis Rabbah 95:1; Zohar, Vol. III, p. 91a; see also Vol. II, p. 199b).

What is meant by “he departed clothed”? “It is taught in the name of Rabbi Nassan: ‘The garment that descended to the grave with a person ascends together with him’” (Talmud Yerushalmi, Kesuvos 12:3; this is also apparent from Niddah 61b). According to the text favored by Tosafos (Kesuvos 111b), there is a difference of opinion concerning this matter, and according to Rabbi [Yehudah HaNasi] they will ascend with the clothes they would ordinarily wear during their lifetime.36

The Zohar (Vol. I, p. 203b) states: “At the time Israel will arise from the dust, there will be many limp and blind individuals. And then the Holy One, blessed be He, will shine the sun upon them to heal them.” This [parallels] our Sages’ statement (Nedarim 8b): “The Holy One, blessed be He, will remove the sun from its shield and the righteous will be healed by it.”

The Order [of Resurrection]: The dead of Eretz Yisrael will be resurrected first and afterwards,37 the dead of the Diaspora (Talmud Yerushalmi, Kilayim 9:3; Kesuvos, loc. cit.). Afterwards, the generation which journeyed through the desert,38 and, according to some, the Patriarchs. “Rabbi Shimon states: ‘The dead of Eretz Yisrael will arise first, then the dead of the Diaspora, and then those who sleep in Chevron”39 (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 113a). Avkas Rochel (Vol. II, sec. IV) explains the rationale: “So that [the Patriarchs] will awake and arise in happiness, seeing that their descendants have arisen from their graves and the land is filled with many righteous and pious men.”

“The righteous will arise first and afterwards, other people” (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 140a); “The masters of Torah and then the masters of mitzvos (ibid., p. 182a and Biurei HaZohar). The Midrash states (quoted in Oheiv Yisrael, Parshas Berachah) that [the dead] will arise and be called by name according to alphabetical order, but those who are characterized by the attribute of humility will arise first.

The People Who Will Exist in the Era of the Resurrection: Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon writes (Emunos VeDeos, the conclusion of discourse 7): “Since this matter is not spoken about in the Tanach and our Sages did not receive an explicit tradition concerning it, differences of opinion arose.”

Now however we have merited the revelation of the Zohar which speaks about this subject (Vol. II, p. 108b):

Until this time [the Resurrection], death was brought about by the sitra achra.40From this time onward, “I will put to death and I will bring to life.”41 At that time, all those who have not tasted death will be given death by Me and will immediately be resurrected. Why? So that the impurity [ordinarily brought about by death] will not at all remain in the world. Instead, there will be a new world, the handicraft of the Holy One, blessed be He.42

The Particulars Involving the Resurrection of the Body: The same body [which died] will itself be resurrected, as implied by the verse:43 “Your dead shall be resurrected.” It does not say they will be recreated. For one bone44 will remain from the body. “At the time of the resurrection, G‑d will soften it with the Dew of Resurrection. The bone will become like yeast to dough and the entire body will be built from it” (Zohar, Vol. II, p. 28b; see also Vol. III, p. 169a).

Will There Be a Day of Judgment After the Resurrection?: There are three opinions regarding this matter:

a) After the Resurrection, there will be one great day of judgment when every person will be judged according to his deeds (Ramban, Shaar HaG’mul, et al).

b) Every person is judged immediately after his death. Thus there is no place for another judgment after the resurrection. Although sometimes, we find the expression “the day of judgment” used in reference to the time after the resurrection, the intent is the day [when judgment is executed] and punishment and retribution [are meted out] (R. Yitzchak Abarbanel, Sefer Mayonei HaYeshua, Maayan 8, Tamar 7).

c) The AriZal’s perspective, as quoted in his name in Nishmas Chayim, Discourse 1, ch. 17: “If you will ask: when a soul has already experienced Yom Kippur, suffering which cleanses... and reincarnation, why should it be judged again on ‘the day of great judgment’? It is possible to explain that ‘the day of great judgment’ is only for the other nations.”

Nishmas Chayim adds to this:

What is there to say with regard to those who will die close to the era of the Resurrection and will not have received the punishment due them through suffering and reincarnation?... I will reply that their judgment is that instead of a prolonged period of judgment, they will receive such an awesome and unique punishment in a short time so that the intensity of the punishment will compensate for the shortness of the time so that they will merit the life of the World to Come. These matters are, however, closed and sealed. Blessed be he who knows.

Nishmas Chayim elaborates, bringing proofs for each of these opinions and arguments against them. (A summary of his statements is found in Midrash Talpios, Anaf Yom HaDin.)

[The Nature of] Life After the Resurrection: “The World to Come (which follows the Resurrection45) will not have eating, drinking, or reproduction, nor commercial activity, nor hatred, nor competition. Instead, the righteous will sit with their crowns on their heads and delight in the radiance of the Divine presence (Berachos 17a). They will never return to dust (Sanhedrin 92b), but instead, continue to exist for all time.46