There isn't anything after life, because life never ends. It just goes higher and higher. The soul is liberated from the body and returns closer to her source than ever before. The Torah assumes this in its language many times -- describing Abraham's death, for example, as going to rest with his fathers and similar phrases. The Talmud discusses the experiences of several people who made the trip there and back. Classic Jewish works such as Maavor Yabok describe the process of entering the higher world of life as a reflection of the soul's experiences while within the body: If the soul has become entrenched in material pleasures, she experiences the pain of ripping herself away from them so that she can experience the infinitely higher pleasure of basking in G-dly light. If she is soiled and injured by acts that sundered her from her true self while below, then she must be cleansed and healed.On the other hand, the good deeds and wisdom she has gained on her mission below serve as a protection for her journey upwards. You want a real good spacesuit to make this trip. The Zohar tells us that if it were not for the intercession of the pure souls above, our world could not endure for even a moment. Each of our lives is strongly impacted by the work of our ancestors in that other world. Grandma's still watching over you. Why should souls basking in divine light above be at all concerned about what's happening in your mundane life below? Because, there they feel the truth that is so easy to overlook while down here: that this lowly, material world is the center-stage of G-d's purpose in creating all that exists. That is also why, at the final resolution, all souls will return to physical bodies in this world.
What Happens After We Die?
One of the fundamental beliefs of Judaism is that life does not begin with birth nor end with death.
This is articulated in the verse in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), "And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to G-d, who gave it."1
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often point out that a basic law of physics (known as the First Law of Thermodynamics) is that no energy is ever "lost" or destroyed; it only assumes another form. If such is the case with physical energy, how much more so a spiritual entity such as the soul, whose existence is not limited by time and space nor any of the other delineators of the physical state.
Certainly, the spiritual energy that in the human being is the source of sight and hearing, emotion and intellect, will and consciousness does not cease to exist merely because the physical body has ceased to function; rather, it passes from one form of existence (physical life as expressed and acted via the body) to a higher, exclusively spiritual form of existence. While there are numerous stations in a soul's journey, these can generally be grouped into four general phases: i) the wholly spiritual existence of the soul before it enters the body; ii) physical life; iii) post-physical life in Gan Eden (the "Garden of Eden," also called "Heaven" and "Paradise"); iv) the "World to Come" (Olam HaBa) that follows the resurrection of the dead.
Reincarnation: A Second Go
Each individual soul is dispatched to the physical world with its own individualized mission to accomplish. As Jews, we all have the same Torah with the same 613 mitzvot; but each of us has his or her own set of challenges, distinct talents and capabilities, and particular mitzvot which form the crux of his or her mission in life. At times, a soul may not conclude its mission in a single lifetime. In such cases, it returns to earth for a "second go" to complete the job. This is the concept of gilgul neshamot--commonly referred to as "reincarnation"--extensively discussed in the teachings of Kabbalah.
This is why we often find ourselves powerfully drawn to a particular mitzvah or cause and make it the focus of our lives, dedicating to it a seemingly disproportionate part of our time and energy: it is our soul gravitating to the "missing pieces" of its Divinely-ordained purpose. The World to Come Just as the individual soul passes through three stages--preparation for its mission, the mission itself, and the subsequent phase of satisfaction and reward--so, too, does Creation as a whole.
A chain of spiritual "worlds" precede the physical reality, to serve it as a source of Divine vitality and empowerment. Then comes the era of Olam HaZeh ("This World") in which the Divine purpose of creation is played out. Finally, once humanity as a whole has completed its mission of making the physical world a "dwelling place for G-d," comes the era of universal reward--the World to Come (Olam HaBa). There is a major difference between a soul's individual "world of reward" in Gan Eden and the universal reward of the World to Come. Gan Eden is a spiritual world, inhabited by souls without physical bodies; the World to Come is a physical world, inhabited by souls with physical bodies (though the very nature of the physical will undergo a fundamental transformation, as per below). In the World to Come, the physical reality will so perfectly "house" and reflect the Divine reality that it will transcend the finitude and temporality which define it today. Thus, while in today's imperfect world the soul can only experience "reward" after it departs from the body and physical life, in the World to Come, the soul and body will be reunited, and will together enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Thus the prophets of Israel spoke of a time when all who died will be restored to life: their bodies will be regenerated and their souls restored to their bodies. "Death will be eradicated forever" and 'the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the water covers the sea." This, of course, will spell the end of the "Era of Achievement." The veil of physicality, rarified to complete transparency, will no longer conceal the truth of G-d, but will rather express it and reveal it in an even more profound way than the most lofty spiritual reality. Goodness and G-dliness will cease to be something we do and achieve, for it will be what we are. Yet our experience of goodness will be absolute. Body and soul both, reunited as they were before they were separated by death, will inhabit all the good that we accomplished with our freely chosen actions in the challenges and concealments of physical life.
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