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01368--Write a short note on the “world to come” (olam haba) in Rabbinic Judaism.



     As in all matters, when there was a disagreement between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Rabbis adopted the position of the Pharisees. Both resurrection and the immortality of the soul become central in Rabbinic thought.

  In the aftermath of the destruction of the Second Temple and the failure of the Bar Kochva Revolt, the idea of the world to come served as a theodicy without undermining the importance of the halachic commitment  to life in this world.

   There is a wide variety of comments on life in olam haba in Rabbinic literature. It is clear that one’s experience in the coming world depends on one’s actions in this world.  Heaven, sometimes called the Garden of Eden, is described as a physical paradise, as well as a place where there is no eating or drinking but only basking in the radiance of God’s presence.  For those whose deeds in this world do not merit attaining life in the world to come, some rabbis believe being cut off from that reward is punishment enough. Other rabbis describe temporary torments, while a very few subscribe to eternal torment.  A common Rabbinic name for what we call hell is gehena. Gei Hinnom is a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem where the Canaanites were described as sacrificing their children to their god, Molech (see II Kings 23:10).

   The Mishnah is lenient about who gets into olam haba. Among the people that don’t make it in are those who deny that the Torah mentions resurrection of the dead. Thus, that concept becomes a self-definin element in the early period of Rabbinic Judaism (m. Sannhedrin 10:1).
[Courtesy : Professor Shai Cherry]

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