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Please correct me if I'm wrong:

The purpose of creation is to create a בית בתחתונים for G-d. The more mitzvos Jews engage in, the more they are guided by their soul's desire to give as opposed to the body's desire to take, the sooner the Messiah will arrive and usher in Olam Haba: a time in which G-d will fully dwell on Earth.

My understanding is that every Jew has a place in Olam Haba, but the same cannot be said for Gan Eden. Upon death, the soul is resurrected to Gan Eden, at which point your life and every action taken is accounted for. If your good deeds outweigh the bad, you may enter Gan Eden. However, if they do not, you may either: a) return to the world for further correction (gilgul neshamot) or b) go to hell for purification.

How is Gan Eden different than Olam Haba? Is Gan Eden just a "waiting room" for a select number of righteous souls to dwell in before the resurrection and eventual Olam Haba? Do all souls exist in one of three places before Olam Haba (hell, our physical world, Gan Eden)?

If the purpose of creation is to create a בית בתחתונים, it sounds like this world will eventually become even better than Gan Eden after the arrival of Moshiach and the resurrection which will usher in Olam Haba.

I think I'm confusing some terms and the timeline and would appreciate any clarification.

Thank you.

  • "Please correct me if I'm wrong: The purpose of creation is to create a בית בתחתונים for G-d." You are not wrong, but you are Chabad specific. Where I come from, the purpose of creation is to that Hashem would have someone to be good to. And therefore our purpose in life is והלכת בדרכיו, to emulate Him and help bring His good to others. Almost every tanna who comments on the big picture gives a bein adam lachaveiro answer -- think Hilel's "on one leg", Rabbi Aqiva's, Ben Azzai's opinions of the כלל גדול שבתורה. One exception: Ben Zoma's "bring two temidim daily", which is enigmatic altogether. – Micha Berger Apr 9 at 4:32
  • Hopefully useful nit: the term is דירה בתחתונים, Aramaic for "living place", not the Hebrew בית. – Micha Berger Apr 9 at 4:33
  • @MichaBerger The two ideas (apartment/sukkah in finite existence and doing good to others) are not mutually exclusive, only different nomenclature used depending upon the source you are looking at. Review of sources in Jastrow is worth looking at. More than that, the concept of "דירא בתחתונים" as taught by the Rebbe is only from G-d's perspective and emphasizing that by the Creator, the lower dwelling place in no way confines, effects or limits. (G-d is the place of the world and the world is not His place. Also, there is no place devoid of Him.) Is Ben Zoma being enigmatic a surprise? ;-) – Yaacov Deane Apr 9 at 15:36
  • @MichaBerger See for example the concept discussed in Pardes Rimonim 24:8:8-9. sefaria.org/… – Yaacov Deane Apr 9 at 16:49
  • @MichaBerger See also Rabbeinu Bechai to BeMidbar 30:3. sefaria.org/… – Yaacov Deane Apr 9 at 17:23
4

Your understanding seems to follow, for the most part, the position of the Ramban as laid out in Sha'ar HaGemul, in the section on reward and Gan Eden. Here is a rough summary, although seeing these sources inside and in context gives a clearer picture.

The Ramban explains that the primary reward is Olam Haba, and the reward that a person receives after they die is in Gan Eden:

ותחלה נאמר ששכר המצות כולם, והגמול הטוב, דבר פשוט הוא בדברי רבותינו זיכרונם לברכה. שהעיקר הגדול הוא חיי העולם הבא. אבל השכר הקודם, והוא מה שיגיע לאדם אחרי המות, הוא גן עד

The Ramban also refers to this aspect of Gan Eden as Olam HaNeshamos, the world of the souls.

(The Ramban also explains that Gan Eden is a double-reference, and refers to a physical place in this world, as we find in Bereishis, but that's not directly related to your question.)

The Ramchal in Derech Hashem 1:3:12 offers an explanation of the purpose of this stage:

ואמנם בצאת הנשמה מהגוף ולכתה אל עולם הנשמות, הנה שם מתפשטת ומזדהרת בזהריה כפי מה שראוי לה ע״פ מעשיה, ובמה שהיא משגת שם כל זמן היותה שם, מתחזקת ממה שנתחלשה בגוף, ומזדמנת יותר למה שראוי שתעשה בזמן התחיה, עד שכשתשוב בגוף בזמן הראוי, תוכל לפעול בו הפעולה הנאותה לה, דהיינו הזיכוך שזכרנו

When the soul leaves the body and goes to the World of Souls, there is is able to expand and shine with the shining that is befitting it according to its actions, and through everything it achieved while in this world it is strengthened against that which it was weakened in the body, and becomes more prepared for its eventual return to the body as resurrection, such that it will be able to refine the body when it returns to it.

Olam Haba is the reward a person gets after resurrection, and is the final reward given to the soul and the body together:

וזה מורה כי העולם הבא הוא עולם השכר לאותן שהקדוש ברוך הוא מחיה בתחיית המתים, ואינן על עולם הנשמות שקרינו אותו גן עדן, אלא עולם התחיה הוא

...[This] shows that Olam Haba is the world of reward to those who will be resurrected, and it is not the World of Souls which we referred to as Gan Eden, rather it is the world of resurrection.

Ramban explains why the body should be involved in the final reward, but this is also not directly relevant to this discussion.

The Ramban gives the "timeline" fairly clearly, based on a Sifri:

ובספרי (ואתחנן לה) הזכירו כל הזמנים הללו, במדרש אמרו: "בהתהלכך תנחה אותך", בעולם הזה; "בשכבך תשמור", בשעה מיתה; "והקיצות", בימי המשיח; "היא תשיחך", לעולם הבא. הזכירו כאן העולם הזה וזמן המיתה והוא עולם הנשמות, וימות המשיח, ואחר כך עולם הבא.

(paraphrased) In the Sifri all of these periods are mentioned ... it mentions this world, the time of death, the World of Souls, the days of Moshiach, and afterwards Olam Haba.

In terms of the "difference", the Ramban is somewhat cryptic, but he describes that in Olam Haba those who merit it will be sustained directly by Hashem's glory:

וכן יאמרו תמיד בתלמוד (עי' בבא בתרא י' א') הקדוש ברוך הוא משביען [מזיו] שכינתו לעולם הבא, שנאמר "אשבעה בהקיץ תמונתך", רצונו לומר שקיום האנשים הזוכים ההם בזיו הכבוד, כקיום הנפש בגוף בעולם הזה באכילה ושתיה

In Daas Tevunos, the Ramchal describes it slightly differently, in that the higher level of Olam Haba is that by returning to the body, and refining and purifying the body and giving a measure of elevation and completion to the body, the soul itself becomes a benefactor, and in that way becomes more similar to Hashem and can therefore connect even more closely to Him.

It should be noted that others, most famously the Rambam, understood that the "Gan Eden" to which one goes when they die is Olam Haba, and after resurrection one dies again and goes back to that place.

  • Thank you for the detailed response. I like Ramchal's explanation. I connect with the idea of elevating this finite world by creating a בית בתחתונים. Through our Tikkun, we bring forth G-d's essence in this world, which will eventually be greater and closer to Hashem than any other world, including that of neshamot (Gan Eden). Therefore, there is no need to go back to Gan Eden, and it is separate and different than Olam Haba. Olam Haba is here and now, we simply have to work to reveal it through good deeds. – user27343 Apr 7 at 18:36
  • However, is it true that not every soul has a place in Gan Eden, but that every Jewish soul does have a place in Olam Haba and will be resurrected? – user27343 Apr 7 at 18:37
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    @user27343 It is a Mishnah in Sanhedrin (10:1) that all Jews have a place in the World to Come, the question is what exactly that means. The Mishna immediately follows with people who don't have a portion - seemingly it is forfeitable. In the way which the Ramchal (and to my understanding, the Ramban) understand, anyone who will be resurrected goes to Gan Eden until then, and anyone who is resurrected has a portion in Gan Eden. I am unfamiliar with a source which explicitly distinguishes within that. (The one exception is those who are alive at the time of the resurrection, but they don't not – Y     e     z Apr 8 at 2:57
  • have a place, it just isn't relevant.) – Y     e     z Apr 8 at 2:57
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    @user27343 Additionally, the Ramban and the Ramchal hold that Olam Haba is not just this world in an enhanced form, but is a newly created world, which is perhaps created out of a destruction of this world as it is. – Y     e     z Apr 8 at 2:59

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