Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Olam ha-Ba: The World to Come in Judaism

The World-to-Come (Olam ha-Ba; Alma de-Atei) is a general term for those spiritual realms in which humanity will one day be a part (Isa. 64:3 is occasionally cited as a reference to the World-to-Come). Sometimes it refers to a perfected reality that is temporally in the future, i.e., the messianic Kingdom of God, which will follow the advent of the Messiah, a period of interregnum between the advent of the Messiah and the end of the world (Pes. 68a; Ber. 34b; Sanh. 91b). Its duration is indeterminate, with periods as short as 40 and as long as 1000 years being proposed (Sanh. 99a). In this renewed creation, ten things will change: The supernal light of first creation will return, living waters that heal will flow forth form Jerusalem, fruit bearing trees with healing powers will sprout from those waters, all the ruined cities will be rebuilt, Jerusalem will be completely rebuilt out of precious materials, harmony will reign in the animal kingdom, and between animals and humans, suffering will be swept from the world, death will be swallowed up, and all human beings will know wholeness and contentment (Ex. R. 15:2).

At other times the World-to-Come refers to a temporally current spiritual world that surrounds the material world and is the place of the afterlife (Shab. 152a; Tanhuma, Vayikra 8; MT, Bahir 106 (160); Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:8). In this interpretation, it is mysterious and beyond our ken (Ber. 17a; Ex. R. 52:3). In Zohar it emanates from the sefirah of Binah (3:290b). It is a place of unending bliss, though the Sages find themselves in some dialectic tension over this. For some regard the World-to-Come as less interesting and rewarding than this world, since there will be little to do there and no commandments to fulfill (Ber. 17a). Whatever it’s true configuration, the righteous of every nation have a portion in the World-to-Come (P Yev. 15:2; Ber. 17a; Uk. 3:13; B.B. 75a; Shab 152b; Sanh. 90a; Tos. Sanh. 13:12).
For a more personal reflection on Olam ha-Ba, go to my earlier entry: Texas, Hell, and Governor Perry
Zal g'mor - To learn more consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:55 AM  

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