The Rambam defines the resurrection of the dead as a fundamental of Judaism. However, unlike the Ramban, the Rambam holds that first there is Moshiach, then resurrection, and then the final result of souls' return to Olam Habah.

According to the Ramban, I can understand resurrection being a fundamental of faith - it is the end game of the whole creation and its purpose, according to the Ramban.

However, the Rambam doesn't count a belief in Olam Habah as fundamental, rather the intermediary stage of the resurrection.

If it is just a reward and punishment thing (that this is the way the ultimate reward and punishment will be melted out, and don't think punishment will only be spiritual or exists in this world, or something like that), it would seem to be subsumed into the fundamental of believing in reward and punishment. Why does it get its own fundamental, and not even as a continuation of the one of reward and punishment?

  • similar judaism.stackexchange.com/q/32006/759
    – Double AA
    May 14, 2014 at 18:40
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    are you looking for something other than the Rambam's own answer in Iggeres Techias Hameisim? May 20, 2014 at 14:33
  • @Matt, never learned that thoroughly, but if it addresses why it is a fundamental more than Olam Habah, OK.
    – Yishai
    May 20, 2014 at 14:37
  • That's exactly what he addresses. I thought you might have wanted something else because what he says in that letter is a bit strange... (and therefore has been interpreted in many ways) May 20, 2014 at 14:40
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    @Yishai, והיסוד האחד עשר שהוא יתעלה משלם גמול טוב למי שמקיים מצות התורה, ומעניש מי שעובר על אזהרותיה, ושגמולו הגדול הוא העולם הבא, ועונשו החמור הכרת.
    – moses
    May 21, 2014 at 4:30

5 Answers 5


R' Yaakov Weinberg in Fundamentals and Faith explains that the resurrection of the dead implies a profound and fundamentally necessary understanding of the relationship between the body and the soul. The body could be viewed as a vessel, which is shed at the end of your life and is now a thing of the past, while your soul is "you." Resurrection is what shows that "you" is the combination of the soul and the body, and your existence as an "entity" is defined by that combination. Therefore, the soul must be reunited with the body to meet the "person's" final destiny.

He uses Chazal's analogy (Sanhedrin 91b) of the blind man and the lame man who join forces, by the lame piggybacking on the blind, to steal fruit from an orchard and then each claim innocence, as each of them individually was incapable of committing the act independently. The owner of the orchard puts them back together and punishes them that way. So too, the soul and the body do not make up an entity with free will until they are together, and so too do they receive their reward.

R' Weinberg understands the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva 8:2, where he writes that there will be no guf in the World to Come, in the context of the continuation of that halacha, in which he states that there will be no eating or drinking or physical pleasures, rather it will be a purely spiritual reward. R' Weinberg understands this to mean that the body will cease to be bound by physical restrictions, but it will still exist. The Rambam goes on to explain which part of the soul will be present - in 8:3 the Rambam is explaining that the Neshama, the part of the soul which is necessary for the interaction and interface between the body and the Nefesh (the spiritual soul)(see Yesodei HaTorah 4:9 where the Rambam makes this distinction), is not the part of the soul that will exist in that time period. The part of the soul that will be there is only the nefesh. This further fits in with R' Weinberg's approach, in that the entire purpose of this part of the soul is to interface with the physical aspects of the body in order to act. But in Olam Haba where the body itself will not be physical, there will be no need for the Neshama to enable the "connection" between the two.

R' Weinberg asserts that it is a misunderstanding of the Rambam's position to think the body will be resurrected and then die. The only dispute with the Ramban, according to R' Weinberg, is whether the body will remain phsyical.

I heard from a close talmid of R' Ruderman that he understood the Rambam the same way.

  • Wow, downvoting is nasty around here. What in the world?
    – Yishai
    May 14, 2014 at 19:03
  • @Yishai Fred could tell you. Maybe he didn't like R' Weinberg's tie? May 14, 2014 at 19:22
  • Not a criticism of your answer, as it is sourced, but it is very Dochek read into the Rambam. העולם הבא--אין בו גוף וגווייה, אלא נפשות הצדיקים בלבד ... הרי נתברר לך שאין שם גוף, לפי שאין שם אכילה ושתייה ... כל נפש האמורה בעניין זה, אינה הנשמה שהיא צריכה לגוף, אלא צורת הנפש ... והיא הצורה שביארנו עניינה בפרק רביעי מהלכות יסודי התורה. And chapter 4 of Yisodei HaTorah discusses the independence of the soul from any body. So I am holding out for an answer that doesn't rely on such a reading of the Rambam.
    – Yishai
    May 16, 2014 at 16:24
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    Sorry I didn't read this until now or I would have commented earlier- this explanation contradicts everything the Rambam himself says in his letter and Moreh. First of all he says in maamar techiyas hameisim "שאלו האנשים אשר ישובו נפשותם לגופות ההם, יאכלו וישתו וישגלו ויולידו וימותו אחרי חיים ארוכים מאוד כחיים הנמצאים בימות המשיח" - people will die after Resurrection. Second, he believes that a physical thing can never be eternal, in this world or any other, which is why he insists that Olam Haba can only be for disembodied souls. 3rd, he says they'll be no body because there's no need for it May 26, 2014 at 6:04
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    @YEZ what does that mean? If it exists without being physical than you haven't solved the question of how the physical body participates in reward/punishment as per the blind-lame person parable? May 26, 2014 at 19:02

Before discussing why or why not something should be an ikkar/principle, we first need to know what the principles are in the first place. I answer that here: What are Rambam's "עיקרים"?

Discussion of this question should begin with noting that the Gemara itself asks this very question in the very beginning of Perek Cheilek (Sanhedrin 90a):

וכל כך למה? תנא, הוא כפר בתחיית המתים - לפיכך לא יהיה לו חלק בתחיית המתים, שכל מדותיו של הקב"ה מדה כנגד מדה

Why should his punishment be so severe? He denied Resurrection, therefore he should have no share in the Resurrection, for all the manners of God are measure for measure

This Gemara, however, poses a severe difficulty for the Rambam, because the Mishna (that this Gemara is referring to when it asks why the denier of Resurrection is punished so severely) is discussing having a portion in Olam Haba, the afterlife, which according to the Rambam is very different than Resurrection! The Ran (chiddushim there) asks this on the Rambam, and answers that there are actually two opinions in the Gemara as to whether Olam Haba and Resurrection are equal, and this represents an alternative view than the one to which the Rambam ascribes. This is answer is also a bit difficult though, because it implies that the Mishna itself follows an opinion other than the Rambam's, despite the fact that the Rambam paskens like this mishna.

Another explanation for the Rambam is given by the Sefer HaIkkarim (4:31), that the Gemara freely refers to two different things as 'Olam Haba', both the Resurrection as well as the afterlife. Despite the fact that they are two different things, they can both accurately be described as worlds that are 'to come'. However, this would leave the question of the Gemara either unanswered (because the 'Olam haba' of the answer isn't the same one as the question), or it would mean that the Rambam understood the Gemara and Mishna to be referring to the Resurrection, in which case he has no basis for saying (as he does in Hil. Teshuva 3:6) that the denier of Resurrection has no share in the afterlife.

An alternative solution (I thought this myself for a while, and discovered today that I'm not the only one who does) is that the Rambam does believe that Resurrection is some form of divine reward, even if it isn't the ultimate reward. Someone who denies the Resurrection is symbolic of the fact that he denies God's ability (or willingness) to provide a person with reward, and therefore he deserves no reward in the ultimate sense: the afterlife. Admittedly, this too is rather weak, both because it doesn't sound like that in the Gemara, and because it's perfectly plausible that someone believe that God wouldn't perform a miracle as radical as resurrection of the dead, but He does provide a non-miraculous from of reward: spiritual afterlife.

The Rambam himself addressed this issue in his Letter on Resurrection, which was written mainly as a response to the claim that the Rambam didn't believe in physical resurrection of the body (because after all, as the question notes, why should he?). Inter alia, he gives an explanation for the importance of the principle of Resurrection:

שזאת ההכחשה מביאה להכחשת הנפלאות והכחשת המופת, כפירה בעיקר ויציאה מן הדת

Denial of this (Resurrection) brings one to deny the miracles and signs, denial of the principle [of Judaism] and removal from religion.

It seems that the importance of the Resurrection for the Rambam has nothing to do with reward, but because the act of resurrection is crucial to the acceptance of miracles. The only reason to deny resurrection, the Rambam is saying, is because he doesn't believe in miracles, which is a belief that is absolutely required for religion. Such an answer does have its difficulties (as theoretically a person could believe that God performs miracles but not such a radical overhaul of natural laws, or that there's no need for such a miracle, etc.) but that seems to me to be the most straightforward reading of the Rambam. I unfortunately have no good explanation (or any explanation at all, really) as to how he fits this ide with the Gemara in Sanhedirin quoted above.

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    I think you are on to something, but skip past it a bit. The very fact that someone says "this is a miracle too far" but I believe in lesser ones is the problem. G-d is capable of anything logically possible (according to the Rambam, that is the limitation) so denial of this as literal is motivated by a lack of belief in G-d's ability.
    – Yishai
    May 20, 2014 at 15:21
  • @Yishai I agree if we're talking about ability, but what if he believes in God's ability, but thinks He would be unwilling to violate nature so radically? I don't think that's the same thing (though the Rambam might, I guess) May 20, 2014 at 16:26
  • I think it comes back to why think there is any such concept. It is too clearly literal in Pesukim and Chazal, unless you have an underlying philosophical reason to say it won't happen. It also depends on if you understand the 13 principles to be fundamental as a stand alone statement, or if they are a reaction to other beliefs (as is well known the general discussion around them of למאי נפקא מינה).
    – Yishai
    May 20, 2014 at 16:30
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    I think the last part of the last paragraph of your answer there is very relevant here: The Rambam says it is fundamental because without it, you don't get into the afterlife - which is a fundamental purpose of the religion, as the Rambam himself elaborates in Pirush HaMishnayos and (somewhat abbreviated form) in Mishna Torah.
    – Yishai
    May 20, 2014 at 16:43
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    So the problem is that there are other things in that Mishna, which equally deprive of Olam Habah, but aren't Ikkrim. Then the answer may be that he says Techiyas HaMeisim is in order for the resurrected to merit to Olam Habah (in Pirush HaMishnayos), so it isn't so much that you lose Olam Habah, but that you are denying the way to get there, and that can only be a Neshama in a body. Hmm...
    – Yishai
    May 20, 2014 at 22:29

The answer is, of course, going to depend on what makes something an Ikar, but I have a suggestion:

The Ramban in Sha'ar Hagemul explains why it is according to the Rambam that resurrection is at all necessary if the body won't be there for long anyways:

אבל אחרי כן יגזור הרב ז"ל מיתה על המשיח ועל דורו, ויהיו נפשותיהם בטוב העולם הבא, בלא גוף, כמו שהיו מתחילה, במעלה גדולה ממנה, ויזכו בו למעלה עליונה ממעלתם הראשונה, שזכו לה במצוות שעשו בזמן התחייה, וזה יתקיים להם לנצח

(paraphrased) Their souls will enter Olam Haba with the merit of the mitzvos that they did during resurrection, and that merit will be what lasts eternally.

The purpose of resurrection, according to how the Ramban understands the Rambam, is that in that elevated state they will do mitzvos, and the mitzvos of that perfected state will be eternal.

This would explain how the Rambam understands the Gemara in Sanhedrin (90a) to be talking about denying resurrection leading to not getting into Olam Haba while they are two different things according to the Rambam, because one is a prerequisite for the other - if you deny resurrection, you will be denied resurrection, and ipso facto you will not access Olam Haba.

This is palatable assuming that the significance of the Ikarim are prerequisites to the afterlife.

  • I think this gets close (great source with the Ramban), but on your second to last paragraph, I don't see how that could be described as Midah Keneged Midah. Also on the last paragraph, the problem is there are other things in the Mishna that deprive one of Olam Habah, and they aren't Ikkarim, so I think you have to say that the issue is more about denial of the way to get there (Mitzvos in a body).
    – Yishai
    May 22, 2014 at 5:19
  • @which is my second to last and which is my last paragraph? May 22, 2014 at 17:23
  • "This would explain" and "This is palatable"
    – Yishai
    May 22, 2014 at 17:51
  • @Yishai so I don't understand the questions. It is Midah K'neged Midah as the Gemara says - he denies techiyas hameisim so techiyas hameisim will be denied to him. Not being granted access to Olam Haba is then a resulting consequence. And the list would not be a list of all the things that could cause you to lose the afterlife, but prerequisites to reaching it. May 22, 2014 at 17:58
  • Midah K'neged Midah would have to mean, he denies Techiaya, and therefore he loses Techiya, so he automatically lose Olam Habah. That last step isn't in the Gemara. It seems to go direct. But I could see that one. On the last point, it seems to be semantics, unless you add the point of the denial is in the entire method of acquiring Olam Habah, or something like that.
    – Yishai
    May 22, 2014 at 18:48

I'll say at the outset this answer will be a little interesting, as it is using Kabbalah to answer the Rambam, but it helps be Mekayim R. Weinberg's answer (although it doesn't quite agree with it, I don't think) and provide another approach to this question.

The Tzemach Tzedek writes:

הנה באלשיך פ' זו הביא משארז"ל בפ' בראשית שבעלילה בא הקב"ה על אדה"ר שהרי אלפים שנה קדמה לעולם הי' כתוב במ"ת אדם כי ימות באהל, וצ"ע ממ"ש במד"ר ס"פ משפטים ע"פ אני אמרתי אלקים אתם מה אני חי וקיים לעולם כו' כך בני קיימין שנא' בהנחל עליון גוים וכתי' כי חלק ה' עמו ולא רציתם אלא חבלתם מעשיכם ואמרתם לעגל אלה אלקיך ישראל ולכך אכן כאדם תמותון, משמע שאין זה עלילה, והנה קושי' זו איתא בזהר פ' שלח דקכ"ח ע"א והתירץ שם דע"כ דאלו לא חטא ג"כ הי' מסתלק מעוה"ז לגעה"ת והעליון אלא שלא הי' טועם טעם מיתה בעלי' זו וכהולך [מחיל] אל חיל וכמחליף לבוש חול ולובש לבוש שבת, או ע"ד חנוך ואליהו שעלו למעלה ולא טעמו טעם מיתה, וע' בזהר ויחי דרמ"ה משל לבן מלך כו' וע"י החטא הוכרח לטעום טעם מיתה ממש וזה נמשך מחטא עה"ד שעירב הגשמיות ברוחניו' וא"א להפרד כ"א ע"י טעמה דמיתה הי', וזהו יעקב לא מת כי לפי שהי' מבחי' יסוד אבא שלמעלה משבה"כ שהי' בז' המדות זמ"ל דתהו וכמ"ש ימותו ולא בחכ' ע"כ עלייתו למעלה לא הי' ע"ד מיתה כ"א כהולך מחיל אל חיל כנ"ל, ועד"ז י"ל שהפרה שהיא בחי' תשו' באה לטהר מטומאת מת ר"ל לטהר לבוא לבחי' נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא ולא יצטרך לטעום כו' כ"א בבחי' ילכו מחיל כו'. ועפי"ז אפשר לישב דעת קצת חכמים דס"ל שגם אחר תחה"מ יש עוד אח"כ שכר עליון לנפש בלבד וזהו דעת הרמב"ם, אבל דעת הרמב"ן חלק עליו שהרי ארז"ל צדיקים אינן חוזרי' לעפרן וכתי' ובלע המות לנצח דאפ"ל שמיתה לא יהי' אבל יהי' שייך עליות כעליות חנוך ואליהו

The upshot being the famous question - what would the world have been like if Adam HaRishon had not sinned? After all death, and the Halachos around death, were in the Torah, which preceded the world. The answer (which is the Emek HaMelech, a pirush on the Zohar) is that death would have been a completely different kind of phenomena, one more like changing clothes from weekday to Shabbos, or like Eliyahu HaNavi and Chanoch going up to heaven.

It is this type of death that the Rambam is referring to that will happen after Techiyas HaMeisim. According to this, perhaps an answer is that the purpose of Techiyas HaMeisim, according to the Rambam's approach is that the whole effect of the sin of Adam HaRishon will be wiped away, and this is why it is a fundamental belief - that ultimately G-d's plan comes to fruition, no matter what Man does to try to interrupt it. It may take a detour, but it ultimately gets there.

Whereas Moshiach is a time when Torah and Mitzvos will be fully kept according to G-d's will, the time of Techiyas HaMeisim is a time when all negative effect of sin is removed, and the world comes to the ultimate state it was intended to be in. So the fundamental is that the world ultimately will be as G-d wants it, and it cannot be "messed up" by man's action in the end.

  • I've actually had a revision of my answer that I've been slowly working on. Perhaps I'll finish it some time soon. Jul 2, 2014 at 3:35
  • @yez, I look forward to it.
    – Yishai
    Jul 2, 2014 at 11:20
  • @Yishai I believe that I saw something like this (in answer of the Rambam) in one of R. Moshe Shapiro's seforim Jul 8, 2014 at 13:18

After some consideration, I think the straight forward answer for the Rambam is as follows.

The Rambam holds that the purpose of the times of Moshiach is to do Mitzvos to merit Olam Haba. That works nicely for those who will live then, but what about those who lived before? With what will they merit Olam Haba?

For that, the answer is Techiyas HaMeisim. They will come back (if they were worthy - he says that Olam HaTechiya is only for Tzaddikim) and have their chance to live in Messianic times before going on to merit Olam Haba.

This is a fundamental just like reward and punishment are fundamental - the belief that the reward is achievable in actuality for the individual is just as important as believing in the abstract in reward and punishment. Otherwise you might think you can avoid the punishment, but be in Golus and not have a chance at the reward.

In other words, if a person perceives that their Torah and Mitzvos now are worth so little, as measured by the reward they will get for it vs. the reward for those who live in the Messianic era, it would be similar to someone believing there is no reward or punishment at all. They will believe that their Avodas HaShem is (close to) worthless, and that ultimately what they do is of little consequence.

Nevertheless its position in the Ikkarim is understood to be after Moshiach, because it is precisely the opportunity represented by Yemos HaMoshiach that demands the same opportunity for those who died before.


  • Yeah the Rambam might hint to this actually. The problem is that for the real tzaddikim, (who are the ones being resurrected in the first place), living in this word - even one during the messianic era - is still a step down from where they'd be otherwise. (I also noticed that through this whole discussion, nobody mentions R. Kapach.... he has a very interesting opinion about techiyas hameisim) Jul 8, 2014 at 13:20
  • @Matt, that is a general question on the Rambam's whole Shitta - why bother with Techiyas HaMeisim for them. The answer would have to be that they can reach higher levels having the opportunity to do Mitzvos in Zman HaTechiya.
    – Yishai
    Jul 8, 2014 at 15:48
  • Ha, I thought that was the question ("on the Rambam's whole shitta"...), and the answer, as I understood it from the Rambam's own writings, is that אין הכי נמי, it is detrimental to them, but it's worth it in the end because of the great miracle/kiddush hashem that resurrection would bring about. But I do think your point is a good one, sorry I forgot to upvote when I commented but I did intend to Jul 8, 2014 at 15:51
  • @Matt, well my question wasn't so much on the idea that Olam HaNeshamos is the end purpose (after all, there is a reason the Ramban argues ...), but rather given that it is, why is Techiyas HaMeisim an Ikkar. It could be true, without being an Ikkar.
    – Yishai
    Jul 8, 2014 at 15:57
  • I see, but actually that makes your answer weaker than I had originally thought. If, after all, anyone can get reward, why should it be so fundamental that you can get the most possible reward? After all, this is only for tzaddikim anyway Jul 8, 2014 at 16:00

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