What Do Jews Believe About Resurrection, the Messiah and the Afterlife?

January 25, 2015

By Tuly Weisz Journey to Heaven

As a synagogue rabbi attending to the dying and their anxious family members, I often received questions about what happens after death.

Most of us have certainly wondered whether there is life after death or the nature of heaven and hell. In her fascinating and well-researched book, Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife, noted scholar Dr. Leila Leah Bronner brings to light the Jewish sources on what happens after we die.

Interested in what Judaism has to say about the afterlife, Bronner begins her in-depth exploration with the Bible. “I have long taken issue with the general consensus among scholars that the Bible does not deal in any significant way with the concept of an afterlife,” writes Bronner in the introduction.

Journey to Heaven starts with the cryptic passage from Genesis, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, for God took him” (5:24). Where did the Lord take Enoch? Early on, the Bible seems to reject the finality of death and suggests some kind of continuity beyond the grave. Later Biblical prophets including Daniel, Ezekiel and Isaiah also describe the dead returning to life, and resurrection as a reward for the righteous.

Each chapter of Journey to Heaven is devoted to a different time period, demonstrating the progression of Jewish thought on the subject of the afterlife throughout the ages. While the Bible only makes subtle references to life after death, the Talmud explicitly discusses the topic at length. Although she comes from the world of academia, Dr. Bronner explains in an accessible and clear manner the difference between Jewish ideas of the “Garden of Eden,” the “World to Come,” and “Gehinnom.”

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Temple Rabbi Delves Into Spirituality of Animals

October 28, 2013

by John Patten Do animals have souls

Ask any pet lover and they’ll tell you when they look into the eyes of their pet, they see a soulful creature looking back. But many have asked Temple Sholom Rabbi Ron Isaacs if dogs have souls, and if so, is there an afterlife for pets? Rabbi Isaacs has asked himself the same question and others, and searched for the answers—many of which he compiled into a book now published by KTAV Publishing House and available through Amazon.com, as well as at the Temple.

“It’s mostly answers to questions I’ve received during my career,” he said, adding as a dog owner himself, he’s pondered the same questions about animals’ place in our lives, as well as in God’s world.

The topics range from questions such as can one bless a cat and are dogs mentioned in the Bible, to deeper examinations—including the morality of hunting animals and whether or not animals have souls.
“Judaism has a belief that human souls return to a place called ‘Olam HaBa’—World to Come,” Rabbi Isaacs said. “Since nobody has ever gone to the World to Come and returned, everything written about what happens in it is purely a matter of faith and speculation.”

He added Jewish mystics say all living beings—human and natural—have souls, but not all souls are created equal. Humans enjoy a divine spiritual soul enabling us to create a relationship with the Divine, and make moral decisions using our free will—something animals cannot do.

But Rabbi Isaacs digs deeper in his book. Read the rest of this entry »