Published April 2023
THE NEXT LIFE
Nowhere in the Bible do we find specific mention of a hereafter. We find only a few vague allusions. However, in rabbinic times, some two thousand years ago, there was a good deal of discussion about life after death, or olam haba. A book of the Talmud, entitled Sanhedrin, devotes considerable thought to immortality. At one point it was the subject of raging controversy. Finally, it was agreed that life after death was an official tenet of the Jewish faith. In fact, it is part of the prayers that we recite three times every day. The second blessing in the classic Amidah reads: “Faithful are You, Lord, Master of life and death.”
The belief was placed at the very beginning of the Amidah, the central prayer of Judaism, because the rabbis considered it to be exceedingly important. Indeed, we are told that if the person leading the congregation is reciting the Amidah aloud and omits this line, then moredim oto, he is to be removed immediately from the pulpit. The next phrase is: “You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall,” a line which is recited during the autumn and early spring. Nature dies in the fall, lies dormant in the winter and then is revived again in the spring. The ancient rabbis reasoned that God could do the same thing for human beings, and so they staunchly proclaimed belief in tehiyat hameytim, literally, “the revival of the dead.” It seems highly appropriate for the Eternal People to believe fervently in immortality.
Wishing all a beautiful and healthy Chag Shavuot.
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD