Every morning, one's first wakeful words are Modeh ani...
- "I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great." Some commentaries
on the Siddur perceive this statement as an affirmation of our faith in Resurrection: just as G-d returns our departed souls to our body anew each day, so too will He resurrect the dead.
Soon after Modeh ani, early in the Morning Blessings, comes the following explicit statement on the Resurrection:377 "My G-d, the soul which You have placed within me is pure. You created it..., and You preserve it within me. You will eventually take it from me, and restore it within me in Time to Come. So long as the soul is within me, I offer thanks to You..., Master of all works, L-rd of all souls. Blessed are You, G-d, Who restores souls to dead bodies."
Likewise, three times a day, the second blessing of Shemoneh Esreh praises Him Who "resurrects the dead with great mercy..., and fulfills his trust to those who sleep in the dust.... Who can be compared to You, King, Who brings death and restores life, and causes deliverance to spring forth! You are trustworthy to revive the dead. Blessed are You, G-d, Who revives the dead."
With the Melaveh Malkah meal at the close of Shabbos, the Sabbath Queen is escorted on her way. This meal nourishes the luz bone, and from this bone the body will be reconstituted at the time of the Resurrection.
During the summer months between Pesach and Rosh HaShanah it is customary to study a chapter of Pirkei Avos ("The Ethics of the Fathers") every Shabbos afternoon. Each week's reading is prefaced by the following mishnah:
"All Israel have a share in the World to Come, as it is said,
'Your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever; they are the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in whom I take pride.'" This preface implies that knowing of the reward in the World to Come is a relevant introduction to the study of Pirkei Avos.
Now, the World to Come is the reward for a person's entire service of G-d through Torah and mitzvos. Why, then, was this particular mishnah selected as an introduction to Pirkei Avos? What specifically connects this reward with the content of Avos?
To answer the above question a further introduction is necessary. One of the reasons given for studying Avos at this time of year is that man's desires are aroused at this time, and the study of Avos inspires him to pursue positive character traits. The content of Avos is thus ethical. However, the Talmud states that the teachings of Avos are directed to a chassid, one who aspires to transcend the basic requirements of the law - yet the custom is that every Jew, from the smallest who is just starting his spiritual path in life, to the greatest who is not distracted by bodily desires, both read Avos. This tractate thus possesses two dimensions - one ethical, relating to the control of one's passions, and so on, and the other chassidic, relating to the aspiration to transcend the letter of the law. Both these dimensions are represented in the preface, "All Israel have a share in the World to Come," as we shall now clarify.
The World to Come as mentioned in this mishnah is a reference to the Resurrection. The reward of the Garden of Eden - the World of Souls - is not equal to all Israel, whereas in the world of Resurrection, when all souls will be reembodied, all Israel will have an equal share, as is explained at length in the teachings of Chassidus.
The reason for this distinction is that the reward of the Garden of Eden - for souls without bodies - is granted mainly for Torah study, which varies (among other things) with the intellectual faculties of each individual soul. The reward of the Resurrection, by contrast, is granted for the mitzvos which were observed with and through the body; it is thus appropriate that it be granted to embodied souls. Since individual Jews vary widely in their study of the Torah, their respective rewards in the Garden of Eden also vary widely. The observance of mitzvos, however, belongs to the realm of action, which is equal to all: even the sinners of Israel are as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate is filled with seeds. For this reason, all Israel have a share in the Resurrection of the World to Come.
This raises a difficulty. How could it be that Resurrection, which is a greater reward than that of the Garden of Eden, is granted for the mitzvah observance of even a simple Jew? Surely the scholar's more elevated manner of serving G-d through Torah study should be more richly rewarded than the simple Jew's observance of the mitzvos.
The explanation: Superficially, all Jews are equal in the realm of action, which is the most basic of human faculties and requires neither mental nor emotive greatness. At the same time, this seemingly unimpressive faculty of action is uniquely precious. G-d's ultimate will is that Jews should construct for Him an "abode in the lower worlds" - in this world, the lowest of all worlds. It is specifically this World of Action that embodies the purpose of creation - the refining and elevation of the body and its environs. And since all Jews are "the branch of My planting and the work of My hands," all Jews feel this inner intent and carry it out.
We can now understand why the reward of Resurrection is granted specifically to embodied souls. G-d's intent of having an abode in this physical world is reflected in every Jew - who is one with the Essence of G-d - since G-d's choice focuses not only on the Jew's soul but also on his body. This also explains the everlasting aspect of a Jew's physicality - the luz bone, from which the body will be reconstituted at the time of the Resurrection. In this way, even when the physical world has been refined and elevated and transmuted into an abode for G-d, His choice of the Jewish body will still be manifest.
To revert to our original question: Why is the study of Avos prefaced by the mishnah that teaches that "All Israel have a share in the World to Come"? - In order to stress that the study of Avos, which guides one in refining the physical body, is vital to every Jew, for his body, too, is the work of G-d's hands. It is in the work of His hands that G-d takes pride:383 "though last in creation, it was first in [G-d's] thought." Since it is the work of G-d's hands, every Jewish body has the potential to be refined. Furthermore, since G-d "devises means that he that is banished be not cast away from Him," even such a man will eventually be refined. Thus no one, however lowly he may be, has the right to excuse himself from refining his body.
On the other hand, since G-d takes pride in the work of His hands, viz., the body, not even the man of stature described above by the Sages as a chassid, should underestimate the value of refining and elevating his body.
The lesson of the mishnah is therefore twofold: it reminds the individual tempted by his passions of the Divine Source of his body, and it teaches the chassid that even though he is beyond the temptations of the body he should not refrain from elevating the physical world, for in this lies the ultimate purpose of creation.
The usual custom of the Rebbeim of Chabad was not to eat bread for the Third Meal on Shabbos but to fulfill the mitzvah by partaking of lighter refreshments. The Rebbe fully explains
the basis for this custom both according to the Halachah, the legal framework of the Torah, and according to Chassidus, the inner dimension of the Torah; moreover, he explains how these two explanations obviously harmonize, since the revealed and the mystical dimensions of the Torah - the nigleh and the nistar - are (respectively) the Torah's body and soul.
The Third Meal of Shabbos foreshadows the Shabbos-like state that will prevail in the World to Come. As to the well-known statement of the Sages that "in the World to Come there is neither eating nor drinking...," the Rebbe points out that the world view of the AriZal and of Chassidus coincides not with the stance of Rambam - which identifies the World to Come with Gan Eden, and perceives the ultimate reward as being enjoyed by disembodied souls - but with the stance of Ramban and many other major authorities: The ultimate state and the ultimate reward at the time of the Resurrection will be enjoyed by souls that are garbed in bodies. At that time the ultimate superiority of the body will finally become apparent.
In the above-quoted sichah, the Rebbe used these concepts and others to explain why the Third Meal should in fact be marked by eating, and also explains why alternatives to bread may be perceived as more than merely permissible substitutes.
Many of the laws and customs observed by the chevrah kadisha when preparing a man's physical remains for burial are inspired by the anticipation of Resurrection.
For example: Though in practice the use of costly shrouds is forbidden, one of the Sages held that their use evidences a belief in the Resurrection. Conversely, one of the reasons that cremation is forbidden is that it denies the principle of Resurrection. Finally, an aerial view of a Jewish cemetery (known in the Holy Tongue as Beis HaChaim - "The Home of the Living") often discloses that the plots are arranged in such a way that the foot of each grave is directed towards the Holy Land; within the Holy Land, towards Jerusalem, the Holy City; within Jerusalem, such as on the ancient Mount of Olives, towards the Temple Mount - so that the body of every departed Jew is laid to rest "as if ready to arise and go up to Jerusalem."
- (Back to text) Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 6.
- (Back to text) Anaf Yosef in Siddur Otzar HaTefillos, based on Bereishis Rabbah 78:1 and Eichah Rabbah 3:21.
- (Back to text) Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 51.
- (Back to text) In Likkutei Sichos (Vol. IV, p. 1081; Vol. VI, p. 84, footnote 29; and Vol. XIII, p. 75), the Rebbe discusses the connection between "great mercy" and the Resurrection.
Sefer Chassidim (sec. 305) explains that the Resurrection is mentioned in Shemoneh Esreh immediately after the paragraph concerning the Patriarchs because one of the Biblical sources which the Talmud cites for the Resurrection relates to the Patriarchs (Sanhedrin 90b). (See Torah Shleimah on Shmos 6:4, and Maharsha on Sanhedrin, loc. cit.) In Likkutei Sichos (Vol. XXIV, p. 56, footnote 84), the Rebbe explains why G-d's power of giving rain (gevuros geshamim) is mentioned (by the phrase, mashiv haruach umorid hageshem) in the paragraph which speaks of the Resurrection. In Derech Chaim (p. 95), the Mitteler Rebbe explains how this power is related to the Divine attribute of Gevurah.
- (Back to text) This is discussed in ch. 9 above. See the Siddur of R. Yaakov Emden, in the section entitled Zemiros leMotzaei Shabbos, Mechitzah Daled; Kaf HaChaim, Hilchos Shabbos 300:1; Mishnah Berurah, Vol. III, sec. 300:2, and Shaar HaTziyun there.
The Rebbe Reb Heschel (in Chanukas HaTorah: Likkutim, sec. 209) observes that Adam introduced death into the world by eating of the Tree of Knowledge: those organs that were nourished at that time, which was a Friday, were destined to decompose. The luz bone alone will never decompose, because it is nourished only by the Melaveh Malkah meal.
The author of Eliyah Rabbah (on Orach Chaim, sec. 300) writes: "I have heard that the luz did not receive nourishment from the Tree of Knowledge." (The Chasam Sofer (Responsa on Yoreh Deah, sec. 337) writes similarly, without noting a source.) Surprisingly, however, Elyah Rabbah also states (citing the Levush, and see also Zohar I, 137a) that "since the luz bone is not nourished by food, it did not benefit from the Tree of Knowledge." Above, however, we learned that the luz is nourished by the Melaveh Malkah meal. Maavar Yabok cites three opinions: (1) It receives no nourishment whatsoever from food; (2) it is sustained only by the food of Shabbos; (3) it is sustained only by the wine of Havdalah. In brief, the matter awaits clarification.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 11:1.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 60:21.
- (Back to text) This question in fact insists on being answered, for this tractate is beamed at a person who desires to be a chassid (see Bava Kama 30a) - and such a person will seek to serve G-d without an eye to reward.
- (Back to text) See the Introduction to Midrash Shmuel.
- (Back to text) See comment of Bartenura at the beginning of Avos.
- (Back to text) Cf. footnote 384 above.
- (Back to text) See Derech Chaim by the Maharal.
- (Back to text) This was explained in ch. 3 above. Cf. Bartenura on Sanhedrin 11:1, and Midrash Shmuel.
- (Back to text) In fact there are those who do not even merit the reward of the Garden of Eden: if not for the intercession of R. Meir, Acher would not have been admitted there (Chagigah 15b).
- (Back to text) See the second maamar in the Appendix below. See also: Torah Or, Parshas Yisro, p. 73b; Likkutei Torah, Parshas Shlach, p. 46d; the maamar entitled Ki Yish'alcha, sec. 1, in Sefer HaMaamarim 5679 and Sefer HaMaamarim 5700. See also Sefer HaMaamarim 5672, Vol. II, p. alef-112: Although the Resurrection will also comprise various levels, they are different from those of the Garden of Eden.
- (Back to text) There is Torah learning in the Garden of Eden (see Tanya, ch. 41), but no observance of mitzvos.
- (Back to text) See Tanya - Iggeres HaKodesh, ch. 17; Derech Mitzvosecha, s.v. Tzitzis, chs. 1 and 3.
- (Back to text) Chagigah 27a.
- (Back to text) Cf. Avos 1:17: "What matters most is not study but action."
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 36.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 49, and at length in Toras Shalom, p. 120; see also HaTamim, Vol. I, p. 30.
- (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 28:3; Zohar I, 28b; Tosafos on Bava Kama 16b.
- (Back to text) The source of the phrase yetzir kapai ("the work of My hands") is Pesikta Rabbasi, sec. 47.
The commentators on our mishnah ("All Israel...") note that it quotes the whole of the verse, including its final phrase ("the work of My hands, in whom I take pride"), because it is this closing phrase that shows that the verse refers to the Resurrection of embodied souls. (Concerning the word "land", by contrast, it could be argued that it refers to the Garden of Eden; cf. Likkutei Torah, Parshas Vaeschanan.) This also explains why the Rambam (in Hilchos Teshuvah 3:5) does not quote the end of the verse, for according to his opinion the World to Come refers to the World of Souls.
- (Back to text) From the Lechah Dodi hymn (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 132). See also Torah Or, Parshas Vayigash.
- (Back to text) Excepted are those who have no share in the World to Come; see ch. 5 above.
- (Back to text) II Shmuel 14:14.
- (Back to text) Cf. Avos 2:16.
- (Back to text) Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 343.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 84-88, and sources noted there.
- (Back to text) Zohar III, 152a.
- (Back to text) Berachos 17a.
- (Back to text) See ch. 3 above, and sources there.
- (Back to text) Emunas HaTechiyah, ch. 4.
- (Back to text) Nimukei Yosef to the Rif, Moed Katan 17a.
- (Back to text) R. Yechiel Michl Tukachinsky, Gesher HaChaim, Vol. I, pp. 155-6. This does not mean, of course, that a person whose body was cremated by force of circumstance (such as by accident or in the Holocaust) will not be resurrected. In the words of R. Tukachinsky (p. 154), "the Creator of All restores his limbs for his future Resurrection."
- (Back to text) Ibid., p. 138. (In some cemeteries, for the same reason, the custom is that the foot of each grave is directed toward the [path leading to the] gate through which one leaves.)