Question: How do we know that there is an olam haba – a world to come?
Answer: Our sages (P’sikta Rabbati 36:4) tell us that Elijah the Prophet will herald the arrival of the Messiah (the anointed one), the son of King David:
“When The Holy One Blessed Is He will redeem the Jewish people, three days prior to the arrival of the Messiah, Elijah will come and stand atop the mountains of the land of Israel. He will cry and eulogize, ‘Mountains of Israel, how long will you stand in a state of destruction – deserted and desolate?’
“His voice will be heard from one end of the world to the other. Afterward he will proclaim to them, ‘Peace has come upon the world.’
“On the second day he will [again] stand atop the mountains of the land of Israel and he will tell them, ‘Good has come upon the world.’
“On the third day he will [again] stand atop the mountains of the land of Israel and he will tell them, ‘Salvation has come upon the world.’
“At that moment, the Holy One Blessed Is He will reveal His Glory and Majesty to all living beings as he redeems Israel as He is revealed above them.”
Part of this revelation will be kibbutz galiyot – the ingathering of exiles that the Prophet Isaiah speaks of (Isaiah 27:13): “V’haya bayom ha’hu yitoka b’shofar gadol u’vau ha’ovdim b’eretz Ashur v’hanidachim b’eretz Mitzrayim v’hishtachavu La’Shem b’har ha’Kodesh bi’yrusholoyim – It shall be on that day that a great shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria and those cast away in the land of Egypt will come [together], and they will prostrate themselves to Hashem on the holy mountain of Jerusalem.”
Belief in the ingathering of the exiles is fundamental. And it will be a glorious event. The Gemara quotes R. Yochanan a saying, “The ingathering of exiles is as great as the day heaven and earth were created” (Pesachim 88a).
Will all 12 tribes return to Eretz Yisrael? The Gemara (Sanhedrin 110b) records a dispute on this matter. According to Rabbi Akiva, “the Ten Tribes will not return as [Deuteronomy 29:27] states: ‘vayashlicheim el eretz acheret kayom hazeh – and he cast them to another land, as this very day.’” Rabbi Akiva argues: “Just as this day goes and does not return, so too they went and will not return.
R. Eliezer explains these words differently. He says, “Just as this day darkens and then becomes light again, so too the Ten Tribes – even as it went dark for them, so will it become light for them.”
The Gemara (ad loc.) notes that even Rabbi Akiva believes that the Ten Tribes can return if they repent. Rashi (sv “vayashlicheim“) explains that the return of Judah and Benjamin (and obviously the levi’im and kohanim in their midst) is not in question; only that of the Ten Tribes.
We pray for the ingathering of our people to our land thrice daily in the Amida: “T’ka b’shofar gadol l’cheiruteinu v’sa neis l’kabeitz galuyoteinu, v’kabtzeinu yachid me’arba kanfot ha’aretz. Baruch Atah Hashem mekabeittz nidchei amo Yisrael – Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who gathers in the dispersed of His people, Israel.”
It would seem from the text of this prayer that it is in accord with the view that all the tribes will be redeemed. We pray that all will repent and return to Hashem, for surely we wish that all of our brethren – the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – benefit from the reward Hashem has in store for His people.
(To be continued)