Planting for the Future

The Jewish Belief in Resurrection of the Dead

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It may come as a surprise to many people, but belief that the dead will be resurrected is fundamental to Judaism. It is not a non-Jewish idea, nor is it some apocryphal mystical “tradition.” It is an essential feature of Judaism.

Maimonides, one of the most important codifiers of Jewish law, includes it in a list of thirteen beliefs that are fundamental to Judaism, such as the belief in G-d. These principles are so essential that they are recited daily during morning prayers.

Belief in Resurrection of the Dead also features prominently in the central prayer of the Jewish service, the Amidah, a prayer that Jews repeat three times every weekday (four times on Shabbat and Holidays, and five times on Yom Kippur!)

What will the Resurrection of the Dead look like? Well, it’s easier to talk about what it will not look like: zombies in rags rising from their graves. 

What it will look like is a bit harder to explain. As the Talmud attests, “No eye has seen it.” (Sanhedrin 99a) It is something that will only happen in Olam Haba, the Next World. 

But it is by no means as fantastical a concept as it seems at first glance. In fact, something very much like it already exists, right here in this world. We just don’t call it Resurrection of the Dead. We call it Metamorphosis.

A butterfly is not simply a caterpillar that grew wings. Hidden within its chrysalis, most of the caterpillar’s body actually dissolves, then is “reconstituted” in the form of a butterfly. 

This butterfly is both completely different from what it once was, and — in a fundamental way — exactly the same. It is not merely that the decomposed sludge within the chrysalis is the “building material” of the butterfly that will emerge. Science has shown that butterflies actually “remember” their caterpillar days.

Similarly, a seed is, in some ways, “dead.” Bury it in the ground, and it will decompose. But this is not the end of the seed’s existence. It is merely a step in the process of its re-growth into a new plant. Just as a seed is buried in the earth in order to regenerate, our bodies are buried in the earth in order to be resurrected.
So, Resurrection of the Dead is by no means a bizarre or fanciful concept. In a very real sense, it has already been built into creation.

Just as a seed is buried in the earth in order to regenerate, our bodies are buried in the earth in order to be resurrected

About the author

Sara Arno is an educator and author whose teachings and works range from the sublime — conceptualization of the Upper Worlds in Hasidic philosophy — to such mundane but crucial issues as the proper use of the en-dash. She enjoys life with her family in Baltimore, Maryland.

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