In the movie "To Dust" they claim that "Judaism teaches that the soul cannot rest until the body turns to dust."

Is there any basis for this claim?

  • 2
    There are 2 verses which allude to this, but don't directly make this claim. Job 34:14-15 and Ecclesiastes/Kohelet 12:7
    – Shmuel
    Feb 3, 2019 at 1:00
  • 2
    See Igros Moshe 3:143 which explains the prohibition for one to bury someone in a mausoleum, because it causes great anguish the the body.
    – sam
    Feb 3, 2019 at 2:48

2 Answers 2


The Zohar (2:151) states that the soul is subject to judgment until the body has decomposed.


Shabbat 152b

א"ר אבהו כל שאומרים בפני המת יודע עד שיסתם הגולל פליגי בה רבי חייא ור"ש ברבי חד אמר עד שיסתם הגולל וחד אמר עד שיתעכל הבשר מאן דאמר עד שיתעכל הבשר דכתיב אך בשרו עליו יכאב ונפשו עליו תאבל מאן דאמר עד שיסתם הגולל דכתיב וישוב העפר על הארץ כשהיה וגו

R. Abbahu said: The dead man knows all that is said in his presence until the top-stone [golel] closes [the grave]. R. Hiyya and R. Simeon b. Rabbi differ therein: one maintains, until the top-stone closes [the grave]; whilst the other says, until the flesh rots away. He who says, until the flesh rots away. — because it is written, But his flesh upon him hath pain and his soul within him mourneth. He who says, until the top-stone closes [the grave]. — because it is written, and the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return unto God.

(Soncino translation)

In explaining the first opinion Rashi writed:

כל זמן שיש לו בשר יש לו לנפש צד חיות להבין

As long as he has flesh, his soul has some aspect of life [which allows it] to understand.

In explaining the second opinion he writes:

גופו קרוי עפר ומששב אל הארץ כשהיה מיד והרוח תשוב שאין בו רוח עוד

His body is called dust, and from when it returns to the earth as it was, immediately "and the spirit returns" for there is no longer a spirit in him.

Thus according to one Talmudic opinion it seems that the soul cannot "move on" until the body decomposes. Indeed, this answer shows that R. Ezekiel Landau used this concept to explain an otherwise strange Talmudic tale.

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