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Insights - Q&A on Redemption


Will the dead who will arise at the resurrection need to undergo purification?


The Talmud relates that the people of Alexandria asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya this question, and he answered them: "When they arise, we will think about it then."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe throws light on this exchange by relating it to another story in the Talmud. A Caesar once asked Rabbi Gamliel: How is it possible that the dead will be resurrected? Weren't their bodies turned to dust? Rabbi Gamliel's daughter, who was listening to their conversation, said: Two craftsmen made vessels. One made it out of water and the other out of mud. Which is the greater craftsman? Obviously, it takes greater skill to form a vessel out of water than out of mud. If G-d could create man out of a drop of liquid, surely He can bring earth back to life.

The Talmud brings an additional argument: If a glass vessel shatters, the shards can be melted down and shaped again into a vessel. How much more so, a person, created by G-d, can be put back together after the body has disintegrated.

The two analogies correspond to two ways that the resurrection can occur. The first analogy compares resurrection to forming a vessel from mud, in which the material is the same but the form is different. This is like bringing the original body back to life. The second analogy refers to rebuilding a vessel out of shattered glass. The material must be melted down to a different composition in order to refashion the vessel. According to this analogy, each resurrected body will be completely rebuilt, with no connection to the original body.

This was the intention of Rabbi Joshua with his answer, "When they arise we will think about it." If the original bodies are resurrected, then they will need purification. If completely new bodies are formed, then no impurity will be attached to them and they will need no purification.

The Rebbe adds an additional insight. The Zohar relates that those who study Torah will merit being resurrected with the "Dew of Torah". The same dew that will resurrect the body will purify it as well.

(Niddah 69:2. Sanhedrin 90:2, see Rashi. Zohar vol. III, 49:1. Likutei Sichos vol. 18, p. 239)



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