An Honest Look at Death and the Afterlife

This week we once again read a double Torah portion, combining the parashot [scripture passage] of Behar [Leviticus 25:1 to 26:2] and Bechukotai [26:3 to 27:34] to complete the book of Leviticus. The main themes of these parashas [passages] are the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, as well as God’s rewards and punishments for those who follow His ways and those who do not.

One interesting thing that the reader will note is that there is no mention of any kind of afterlife. All of the rewards and punishments that are listed are described in wholly physical terms: ample rains and abundant harvests, military victories and secure borders, good food and the feeling of God’s presence – and the opposite of these if the people are sinful. Why is it that the Torah does not mention any kind of reward and punishment in the afterlife? After all, we are accustomed to hearing that this world is nothing but a transient “hallway”, so to speak, while the next world is the real deal, where people receive what they deserve.

More puzzling is the fact that the Torah essentially never mentions the afterlife in explicit fashion. Everything appears to happen in this physical world. Yet, there is certainly a discussion of souls, and many spiritual entities. So, what is the real Torah conception of the afterlife?

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Author: Efi Palvanov

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Bible reference(s): Genesis 3:19, Genesis 37:35, Genesis 42:38, Genesis 44:29, Genesis 44:31, Numbers 16:30, Numbers 16:33, Deuteronomy 32:22, 1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Samuel 22:6, 1 Kings 2:6, 1 Kings 2:9, Job 7:9, Job 11:8, Job 14:13, Job 17:13, Job 17:16, Job 21:13, Job 24:19, Job 26:6, Psalms 6:5, Psalms 9:17, Psalms 16:10, Psalms 18:5, Psalms 30:3, Psalms 31:17, Psalms 49:14, Psalms 49:15, Psalms 55:15, Psalms 86:13, Psalms 88:3, Psalms 89:48, Psalms 116:3, Psalms 139:8, Psalms 141:7, Proverbs 1:12, Proverbs 5:5, Proverbs 7:27, Proverbs 9:18, Proverbs 15:11, Proverbs 15:24, Proverbs 23:14, Proverbs 27:20, Proverbs 30:16, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Isaiah 5:14, Isaiah 7:11, Isaiah 14:9, Isaiah 14:11, Isaiah 14:15, Isaiah 28:15, Isaiah 28:18, Isaiah 38:10, Isaiah 38:18, Isaiah 57:9, Ezekiel 31:15, Ezekiel 31:16, Ezekiel 31:17, Ezekiel 32:21, Ezekiel 32:27, Hosea 13:14, Amos 9:2, Jonah 2:2, Habakkuk 2:5, Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 11:23, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45, Mark 9:47, Luke 10:15, Luke 12:5, Luke 16:23, Acts 2:27, Acts 2:31, James 3:6, 2 Peter 2:4, Revelation 1:18, Revelation 6:8, Revelation 20:13, Revelation 20:14, Baruch 2:17, Baruch 3:11, Baruch 3:19, 2 Maccabees 6:23, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 14:12, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 14:16, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 17:27, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 21:10, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 28:21, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 41:4, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 48:5, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 51:5, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 51:6, Tobit 13:2, Wisdom of Solomon 1:14, Wisdom of Solomon 2:1, Wisdom of Solomon 16:13, Wisdom of Solomon 17:14, 2 Esdras 2:29, 2 Esdras 4:7, 2 Esdras 4:8, 2 Esdras 4:41, 2 Esdras 7:36, 2 Esdras 8:53

Source: “An Honest Look at Death and the Afterlife,” Mayim Achronim, May 14, 2015.

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