This letter was addressed to Rabbi Avraham Hecht.

B”H, 7 Shvat, 5706

Greetings and blessings,

In response to [the questions in] your letter:

a) Will there be eating or drinking in the World to Come?

There are three epochs that are relevant with regard to the prophecies and promises in the Tanach and the words of our Sages: the era of Mashiach, Gan Eden [— the spiritual world of the souls, the afterlife], and the era of the Resurrection. (Both Gan Eden and the era of the Resurrection are referred to [at times] with the term “the World to Come.” This has led to several misunderstandings.)

i) the era of Mashiach: The Talmud (Berachos 34b) mentions two opinions concerning the nature of existence during that era, whether it will be entirely miraculous or whether “there will be no difference between the present era and the era of Mashiach except [Israel’s] subjugation to the gentile nations.” With regard to the ruling concerning this, see the glosses Kessef Mishneh and Lechem Mishneh to Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 8:7; see also Zohar, Vol. I, p. 139a; Vol. III, p. 125a. Some particulars concerning [the nature of] the era of Mashiach are not explained explicitly in the revealed teachings of the Torah as stated by Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:2). Nevertheless, it is clear that according to both of the opinions cited above, there will be eating and drinking in the era of Mashiach. On the basis of several verses and statements of our Sages, we are forced to accept [this principle]. It is also explicitly stated by Rambam (loc. cit.). See also the Alter Rebbe’s [statements in Tanya,] Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 26.

ii) Gan Eden: [This term refers to] the incorporeal abode of the souls (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah, ch. 8, see also the commentaries; Torah Or, Parshas Yisro, the maamar entitled HaAvos Hein Hein HaMerkavah, et al). It is obvious that there is no concept of eating and drinking there, for these [activities] are relevant only with regard to a body.

iii) the era of the Resurrection: [At that time,] the souls will be enclothed within bodies (see the sources cited in the section Teshuvos U’Biurim in the sixth issue of Kovetz Lubavitch1).

Our Sages state (Berachos 17a): “In the World to Come, there will be neither eating or drinking.” The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah, loc. cit.) interprets this term as referring to the incorporeal world [of the souls]. The era of the Resurrection, by contrast, will be characterized by eating and drinking (Lechem Mishneh to Hilchos Teshuvah 8:2; Rambam explicitly states this in Iggeres Techiyas HaMeisim). Rambam, however, is following his thesis that the ultimate and fundamental reward will be in an incorporeal existence. For, [according to his understanding,] it is impossible for the soul to receive the immensity of [its] reward while it is enclothed in a physical body. Therefore, it is his opinion that those who will arise in the resurrection will die afterwards and then will come to the World to Come, for there [the soul] will receive the fundamental reward for service in this world (Iggeres Techiyas HaMeisim; see also [Rambam’s] Commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1). Nevertheless, the great [sages] of Israel have already differed with him with regard to all the particulars, the leading one among them being Ramban [who states] “with clear proofs... that the resurrection of the dead is the ultimate purpose.... This is also the truth according to the Kabbalah” (Derech Mitzvosecha, Mitzvas Tzitzis; see also Likkutei Torah, the explanation to the first maamar entitled Shuvah Yisrael). Accordingly, we are forced to say that our Sages’ statement: “In the World to Come, there will be neither eating not drinking” which speaks about the ultimate reward, refers to the era of the Resurrection.

b) In the era of the Redemption, will the body be resurrected unblemished or with blemishes, i.e., it will be resurrected with blemishes and then be healed?

Our Sages (Sanhedrin 91b) state that [our people] will be resurrected with their blemishes and (afterwards) be healed. And they elaborate more in Bereishis Rabbah 95:1, stating: “Just as a person departs, he will return. If he departed blind, he will return blind.... Just as he departed clothed, he will return clothed.... Afterwards, I will heal them.” From the Zohar, Vol. I, p. 203b, it is evident that the healing will come from the sun, as our Sages state (Nedarim 8b). With regard to this and the other subjects mentioned further on, see the coming issue of the Kovetz.2

c) At the time of the Resurrection, in which body will the souls that have had several incarnations arise?3

There are many particulars and points of differentiation with regard to this issue. In general, the concept can be explained as follows: The soul (here the intent is to refer to [all three levels,] nefesh, ruach, and neshamah, or merely one of them, but not merely the level of neshamah) reincarnates (in the predominant majority of instances) to perfect what it failed to perfect in its first descent to the body. Since the entire Jewish people are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate is filled with seeds,4 in every descent and incarnation, certain levels of the soul are perfected. At the time of the resurrection, every body will arise together with the level of the soul that it perfected. To quote Shaar HaGilgulim, Introduction 4:

If during one’s first lifetime,... (the body) did not merit to perfect (the soul) entirely [before] it 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.

You should not raise the question: If so, will there be some bodies that 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. [To cite a parallel:] all of the souls as a whole are in fact one soul, the soul of Adam the first man, as 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....” See also Tanya, chs. 2 and 37, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 7, et al.

d) There are places where the day (and the night) are longer than 24 hours. Note the Zohar, Vol. III, p. 10a: “There are places which are entirely day and there is no night there, except for a brief moment.” How should these places conduct themselves with regard to the observance of the Shabbos? Is the approach that deserves primacy counting the hours, [following] the [pattern of] the days in another place, or [going according to] the rising and the setting of the sun?

I did not understand your question. How is it possible to observe [Shabbos] according to the rising of the sun when it will not rise for several 24-hour periods and perhaps for several months and then it will not set for a long time? Also, what is your intent when you say that they should [follow] the [pattern of] the days in another place? Which other place, since — to quote the Zohar, loc. cit., — “When it is light for these, it is dark for these. When it is day for them, it is night for the others”?

It is obvious that in these places, it is necessary to count hours, i.e., their days will be 24 hours long. And the beginning of Shabbos will be the same for all places on the same longitude that share the same horizon. It appears to me that Sefer HaBris discusses this issue.5 That text, however, is [presently] inaccessible to me.

To be sure, in this context, it is necessary to clarify:

a) With regard to matters that are dependent on day and night, e.g., the times for prayer, in which places does one begin reckoning according to the clock and not according to seasonal hours?6 For example, in a place where the day is only one hour long, it is not logical to assume that it will be sufficient to fast only one hour for the fast of 10 Teves.

b) At the North Pole and the South Pole, it is not appropriate to speak of longitude. How should one conduct oneself there?

Clarification is necessary [regarding these matters]. This is not the place for discussion of the issue.

With the blessing “Immediately to teshuvah; immediately to Redemption,”

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Executive Director