Question: How do we know that there is an olam haba – a world to come?
Answer: Last week we shared some of the Rambam’s views on the coming of the Messiah. Here is some more material from his Hilchot Melachim (12:3):
“In the days of the king, the Messiah, when his reign will be settled and all of Israel will gather unto him, he will purify all of them via the Divine Spirit that will rest upon him, as it states [Malachi 3:3]: “v’yoshav m’tzoreif u’metaher kesef v’tihar et bnei Levi v’zikak otam ka’zahav v’cha’kosef v’hoyu la’Shem magishei mincha bi’tzdakah – He will sit smelting and purifying silver; he will purify the children of Levi and purge them like gold and like silver, and they will serve before Hashem minchah offerings in all righteousness.”
The Rambam continues: “The children of Levi will be purified first, and he will declare: ‘This one possesses the priestly pedigree while this one possesses the Levite pedigree.’ And he will shunt aside those without pedigree to Israelite status. This is as the verse [Ezra 2:63] states: ‘Vayomer hitrashata lohem asher lo yochlu mikodesh ha’kodoshim ad amod kohen l’urim v’tumim – Hattirshatha told them that they should not eat of the most-holy offerings until there would arise a kohen to [inquire of] the Urim and the Turim.'” (The Radak to Ezra 2:63 explains that Hattirshatha is a sobriquet of the prophet Nehemiah.)
“We thus learn that via the Divine Spirit their pedigrees will be established and revealed to each. Insofar as the Israelites as concerned, only their tribal identity will be established, as [the Urim and the Turim] will identify that such and such an individual is from such and such a tribe. But it will not confirm a person’s status – whether he is legitimate or not or a slave or not – because the law is since a family is mixed [i.e., lacking pedigree or legitimacy], it is mixed.”
The Mechaber (Even HaEzer 2:5) states that if a known challal (the child of a kohen and a divorcee) is mixed into a family, all subsequent generations of women in that family are prohibited until one does a thorough check, and if a kohen married one of them, he must divorce her. The same applies if there is a mixture of doubtful illegitimacy or one who is known to be illegitimate.
The Rema (Even HaEzer 2:5), commenting on this last statement of the Mechaber, explains that this rule only applies to one who specifically knows of the matter. Otherwise (if it is not common knowledge), “since they are mixed, they are mixed.” The person who knows of the problem may not reveal it; rather, he should leave the matter alone, and the family is considered to have a chezkat kashrut – a presumption of fitness – because in the future all such families will be declared fit (Kiddushin 72b).
Nevertheless, it is proper to warn those who are scrupulous if this mixture already occurred. If it didn’t – i.e., if a known unfit person comes before us – it is proper to publicly declare his/her unfitness in order that those who are fit (including those who are not scrupulous) not stumble and mix with such a person.
Beit Shmuel (Even HaEzer 2:16) explains that when Rema refers to one whose blemish is known, he means someone about whom two witnesses testified; if the knowledge of the blemish is only based on rumor or innuendo, no such stringency exists.
In the future, not only will all have their portion in the hereafter; they will all be declared fit as well. Thus, it seems that the hereafter very much parallels Yetziat Mitzrayim, when Hashem took us out of 49 levels of impurity to the highest levels of purity and holiness.
If only we had not sinned, that would have been the beginning of the ketz – the hereafter – that the patriarch Jacob yearned for, which would have culminated in Moses and Aaron leading us into the promised land.
(To be continued)