It is required by Jewish law that the body of one who has passed away be buried as quickly and as completely as possible, meaning that the entire body (or as much of the remains as possible), including internal organs and blood, be buried together. The most basic understanding of this rule is that in this way one shows respect for the dead, which is an absolute priority in Jewish law. However, the more esoteric reason for this law is the resurrection of the dead.

The very last principle of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith (considered the foundations of Jewish belief) states: “I believe with perfect faith that the dead will be brought back to life when God wills it to happen.” In Hebrew, the resurrection of the dead is known as t’chi’yat ha’may’tim.

Maimonides’ principle states: “when God wills it to happen,” which is generally understood to mean that the resurrection of the dead is an event that will happen in Olam Habah, the World to Come, after the Messianic age. The centrality of this concept in Jewish faith is highlighted by the fact that it is included in the daily Amidah (central prayer recited three times a day), as part of the second blessing, which concludes: “Faithful are You to revive the dead. Blessed are You, Lord, who revives the dead.”

The idea and meaning of t’chi’yat ha’may’tim is hotly debated by the sages. The two differing opinions are most definitively spelled out by Maimonides* and Nachmanides*… Maimonides believed that the World to Come would be completely spiritual, and so only the spiritual essence of each person would be brought into that world. Nachmanides, on the other hand, taught that to complete the world in Olam Habah, it was necessary to have a pure merger of the physical and spiritual, and therefore t’chi’yat ha’may’tim refers to an actual physical resurrection.

Maimonides – Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known as Rambam, (1135-1204).
Nachmanides – Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, also known as Ramban (1194-1279).

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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