Question: How do we know that there is an olam haba – a world to come?
Answer: An important component of the hereafter is the resurrection of the dead to their eternal reward. As the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 90a) states, “Kol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek l’Olam Haba she’ne’emar – All of Israel have a portion in the world to come, as is written [Isaiah 60:21], ‘V’ameich kulam tzadikim l’olam yirshu aretz netzer mata’ai ma’asei yodai l’hitpaer – And your people are all righteous; they will inherit the land forever, a shoot of My planting, My handiwork to [bask in] glory.’”
From this verse we see that there is a hereafter accompanied by our people inheriting the Promised Land, the land that was promised first to Abraham, as the Torah states (Genesis 17:7-8), “V’hakimoti et briti beini u’veinecha u’vein zar’acha acharecha l’dorotom li’vrit olam li’h’yot lecha Lei’lokim ul’zar’acha acharecha – I will ratify My covenant between Me and you and between your offspring after you, throughout the generations, as an everlasting covenant, to be a G-d to you and to your offspring after you.”
It was again promised to Isaac as the Torah states (Genesis 26:3), “Gur ba’ aretz ha’zeh v’ehyeh imcha va’avorachecha ki l’cha ul’zar’acha etein et kol ha’aratzot ha’eil va’hakimoti at ha’shevuah asher nishbati l’Avraham avicha – Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your offspring will I give all these lands, and establish the oath that I swore to Abraham, your father.”
It was further promised to Jacob (Genesis 28:13) as he journeyed to Haran: “V’hinei Hashem nitzav alav va’yomar ani Hashem Elokei Avraham avicha v’Eilokei Yitzchak ha’aretz asher ata shocheiv aleha lecha et’nena ul’zar’acha – And behold! Hashem was standing over him, and he said, ‘I am Hashem, G-d of Abraham, your father and G-d of Isaac; the ground upon which you are lying, to you will I give it and to your descendants.’”
Each of these promises refers not only to Israel but to the patriarchs. Thus, we have yet another allusion to the hereafter and the resurrection, when everyone, including the avot, will be given their promised share of the land.
Isaiah promises quite clearly that in the future every one of our people (“kulam tsaddikim”) will be cleansed of sin. As the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 90a) cited above declares: “All of Israel have a portion in the World to Come.”
Yet, the Mishnah lists some exceptions to this rule. Some are so wicked that they lose their share in the World to Come. Why didn’t the Mishnah state, then, that some or most of Israel have a portion in the World to Come”?
The answer is as follows: The Gemara (supra 97b), in discussing the redemption, cites the view of Rav that the redemption is dependent on the people repenting. Shmuel differs, offering the following astonishing statement: “It is sufficient for a mourner to keep his period of mourning.”
Rashi (s.v. “dayo l’avel…”) explains Shmuel’s statement as follows: “It is sufficient for the Holy One Blessed Is He who stands in wait for His period of time. If He then sees that they do not repent, He does not wait in His mourning all the days; rather, there is an end to the matter.” Rashi then offers another interpretation: “It is sufficient for Israel due to the pain they endure in the exile that they be redeemed even without repentance.”
The Maharsha (sv. “u’Shmuel amar…”) explains that as a consequence of their mourning, they will repent; furthermore, other means will cause them to repent. R. Eleazar says only if they repent will they be redeemed. R. Yehoshua, however, says that if they don’t repent of their own volition, Hashem will bring a forth a king whose decrees are as harsh as Haman’s, which will cause the Jewish people to return to the righteous path.
The Mishnah (infra 111b) states: The people of Ir Hanidachat – a city where the inhabitants were led to rebel against Hashem and His Torah – have no portion in the World to Come. The Gemara (supra 47a) says such city can atone for its sins. Rava explains that while there is no atonement if they die a natural death, there is atonement if they are killed.
Tosafot (47a sv “v’amai keivan…”) explains that there is atonement only if beit din issues a judgment of guilt and the sentence of death is carried out. Then, they, too, have a portion in the World to Come.
Now, if a city where rebellion and wickedness is universal – and as such should be doomed to destruction – is saved from oblivion if it is destroyed by beit din, surely those whose sins are far less severe are saved. They are given their portion as promised to their fathers.
Thus, we see how the promise that every Jew will receive his portion of the World to Come can come about.
(To be continued)