The World to Come

Many incidental remarks occur in the Talmud declaring that the person who performs a certain action will, or will not, have a share in the World to Come.

Note: As for those who are to be included, we are told: Who will inherit the World to Come?  He who joins the benediction “Blessed art Thou Who hast redeemed Israel” to the Eighteen Benedictions (Ber. 4b).

Whoever recites Ps 145 thrice daily may be assured that he is a son of the World to Come.  The reason is that it contains the verse, “Thou openest Thy hand and satisfiest every living thing with favour” (verse 16) (Ber. 4b).

Whoever says the benediction (in the Grace after meals) over a full cup of wine will be granted a boundless inheritance and will be worthy to inherit two worlds, this world and the World to Come (Ber. 51a).

Among those who will inherit the World to Come are: who resides in the land of Israel and who rears his son in the study of the Torah (Pes.113a). 

Whoever walks a distance of four cubits in the land of Israel is assured of being a son of the World to Come (Keth. 111a).

He who studies the laws of Judaism is assured of being a son of the World to Come (Meg. 28b). 

They sent a question from Palestine to the Rabbis in Babylon, “Who will be a son of the World to Come?” They answered, “He who is meek and humble, walks about with a lowly demeanour, studies the Torah constantly, and takes no credit to himself” (Sanh. 88b).

As for those who are to be excluded, we are told:

Whoever crosses a stream behind a woman will have no share in the World to Come (Ber. 61a). 

Who puts his fellow-man to shame in public will have no share in the World to Come (B.M. 59a). 

Seven classes of persons will have no share in the World to Come: a scribe, a teacher of children, the best of physicians, the judge of a city, an enchanter, a synagogue beadle, and a butcher (ARN 36).[i]

In the Hereafter, the Holy One, blessed be He, will take a Scroll of the Torah, set it upon His lap and say, “Let him who occupied himself therewith come and receive his reward. (A.Z. 2a).

In the Hereafter the Holy One, blessed be He, will judge the righteous and wicked of Israel.  To the righteous, He will grant a permit for them to enter Gan Eden and the wicked he will send back to Gehinnom. … After that He will restore the righteous to Gan Eden and the wicked to Gehinnom’ (Midrash to Ps 31:120a).

In preparation for the Day of Judgement a record is kept of all that the human being does while on earth.  ‘All your deeds are written in a book’ (Aboth 2:1).

The following have no share in the World to Come: He who says that the doctrine of the Resurrection is not deducible from the Torah, who maintains that the Torah does not come from Heaven, and the epicurean.  R. Akiba says, also he who reads non-canonical books, and who utters a spell over a wound, citing, “I will put none of the diseases upon thee which I have put upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).  Abba Saul says, Also he who pronounces the Tetragrammaton as it is written’ (Sanh. 10:1).

There is not a dogmatic verdict on the eternal fate of a person.  The many remarks are nothing more than a hyperbolical expression of approval or disapproval.  More importance is, however, attached to the extract: ‘All Israel has a share in the World to Come, as it is for ever’ (Is. 60:21). 

Gehinnom

The fate of the wicked is to descend into a place of punishment called Gehinnom or hell.  Its origin predates the creation of the Universe (Pes. 54a).  The principal safeguard, however, is the study of Torah.  ‘The fire of Gehinnom has no power over the disciples of the Sages.  […] fire of Gehinnom has no power over the sinners in Israel.’ (Chag. 27a)  There is some debate between the Rabbi’s on the subject of people being sent to Gehinnom for eternity or just for a time or not at all.


[i] These persons were supposed to be generally unconscientious in the discharge of their duties.

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