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Thought for the Day: Coming of the Messiah and Resurrection of the Dead -- Intrinsic Fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism

I grew up as and into a secular scientist with a feeling there must be more.  That is, it certainly felt to me that there had to be more to being human than just being a smart, hairless ape.  After all, I felt no moral indignation toward apes beating each other up, or even being eaten by lions and tigers; that's just, after all, the ecosystem.  On the other hand, I do feel a deep moral indignation toward mugging in Central Park and murder.  And no, it's not just the practicality living together.  On the other hand, two things that seemed to me to be completely outside the scope of reality and iron clad proof that Christianity was anti-scientific and wrong was the idea of a messiah and also resurrection of the dead.  Sigh... live and, as they say, learn.

Becoming Orthodox Jewish meant, among other things, paying attention to what I was saying in the prayer.  Right there in the central prayer, known sometimes as the Amidah (standing prayer, a name from the Zohar HaKodesh) and sometimes as the Shmoneh Esrei, second paragraph: Blessed are you, HaShem, who resurrects the dead.  (I've seen some mealy mouthed translations by the Conservative Jewish Religion and even some modern orthodox who try to force the words into something more acceptable to the western secular ear; but it says what is says.)  As far as praying for the messiah, that's bakashos/requests 11 and 12; again, not a "messianic era", but a real, live religious monarchy with a real, live king (not a dead one brought back to life, by the way).  So now what's a secular scientist looking for Truth supposed to do?

More research, that's what; as any other endeavor undertaken by a scientist.  What, precisely, is the problem with these concepts?  The messiah question is addressed at some length in the sefer Da'as u'T'vunos that has been translated into English under the title, The Knowing Heart.  The resurrection issue is, at least in principle, easier to deal with.  I think there are two sticking points with resurrection for the us modern scientist types.  First, it sounds a bit like Frankenstein's monster; all that re-animation stuff is grist for horror stories, not sensible folk like us.  Secondly... who cares?  What difference could it possibly make?

As far as the mechanics, the M'silas Yesharim makes a simple kal v'chomer (a fortiori, for those of you who prefer latin) argument:  If HaShem can create life from inert elements, then He can surely resurrect from matter that had previously had vitality.  Good enough; once I accept that life exists (most of us are good with that), then we are forced to accede that resurrection is no big deal.  Fine.  Still leaves us with: "Who cares?"

There are two reasons you should care and the Torah does care; one philosophical, one practical on a day to day basis.  Philosophically, HaShem created a world based on absolute and infinitely precise justice.  (Doesn't seem like that?  Again, see Da'as u'T'vunos.)  We are rewarded and punished (yep, there is punishment) for what we did in this world, not what we thought about doing (mostly).  It is only the merged soul and body that can do mitzvos or aveiros, so it is only the merged soul and body than can be rewarded and punished.  Chew on that for a while.

On the practical basis: Western society now supports "death with dignity" for the elderly.  I have never heard anyone seriously propose that for infants, children, nor teenagers.  If a child gets an ear infection, we give him antibiotics, not morphine.  Why?  Because, silly, he has a whole life ahead of him!  When I had cancer almost 20 years ago, there was not question about enduring a grueling three month course of chemotherapy.  Why?  Because, silly, I had my whole life ahead of me!  So what's all this about "death with dignity" for the elderly?  They have a whole eternity ahead of them!  We don't take a fetus early from the womb, and we don't take a human early from this world.  The womb prepares the fetus for this world; this world prepares the person for his eternal existence.

Philosophically sound and day by day practical.  Who woulda thunk?


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