Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Maimonides Reinterpretation of the Thirteenth Article of Faith: Another Look at the Essay on Resurrection

 Jewish Studies Quarterly, Volume 10 (2003) pp. 244—257  Albert D. Friedberg

In this paper I argue (1) that Maimonides Essay actually reinterpreted, somewhat coyly, his earlier statements; and (2) that his Essay outlined a novel doctrine of the resurrection 

 Among scholars, he continues, there are five opinions on
the reward for the righteous who keep the biblical commandments (and the converse for the unrighteous).
(1) a carefree, sensually luxurious life in the Garden of Eden
(2) eternal prosperity and health in the messianic era
(3) resurrection of the dead to material yet immortal bliss
(4) health and wealth in this world under a powerful native sovereign
(5) all of the above
In this light Maimonides complains that few are interested in the extraordinary phenomenon of the olam haba or world-to-come. He raises the urgent question of what constitutes takhlit (the “goal”, or true reward), and differentiates between true reward and the causes leading thereto.
He is exasperated by those who worry whether they will rise clothed or naked, bejewelled or not – as if this had anything to do with ultimate reward.
It becomes clear, from the tone of what he says, and goes on to say, that Maimonides categorically dismisses all five opinions in terms of takhlit or ultimate goal. Rather, only the immortality of the soul/intellect could be the proper takhlit of the virtuous.

In summary, then, the body does indeed decompose after death, but the righteous need not be resurrected since they are already “alive”. While resurrection is one of the articles of the faith, Maimonides seems to be foreclosing on a literal interpretation thereof. The suggestion in the Guide for the Perplexed is that the resurrection of the dead must be allegorized: another way of expressing the immortality of the righteous soul. As the passage in his Mishneh Torah makes clear, the ultimate reward of the righteous is blissful eternity in an immaterial world.


  1. https://daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/rambam/hakdamat-2.htm#6
    [תחיית המתים]

    ותחיית המתים הוא יסוד מיסודי משה רבנו ע"ה, ואין
    דת ולא דבקות בדת יהודית למי שלא יאמין זה. אבל הוא לצדיקים. וכן הוא לשון
    בראשית רבה "גבורת גשמים לצדיקים ולרשעים, ותחיית המתים לצדיקים בלבד".
    ואיך יחיו הרשעים והם מתים אפילו בחייהם? וכן אמרו (ברכות יח ע"ב) רשעים
    אפילו בחייהם קרואים מתים, צדיקים אפילו במיתתן קרואים חיים. ודע כי האדם
    יש לו למות בהכרח ויתפרד וישוב למה שהורכב ממנו.

  2. https://seforimblog.com/2021/03/an-unpublished-1966-memorandum-from-rabbi-aryeh-kaplan-answers-questions-on-jewish-theology/


    it is precisely because people came to this interpretation that

    Maimonides wrote his famous Letter on Resurrection in which he states

    emphatically that he indeed believes in a literal resurrection of the

    dead, after which the dead will die again and enjoy the spiritual World

    to Come. It is true that some have not been convinced by the Letter on

    Resurrection and see it as an work letter that does not give us

    Maimonides’ true view, but such an approach means that one is accepting a

    significant level of esotericism in interpreting Maimonides, as we are

    not now concerned with a passage here or there but with an entire letter

    that one must assume was only written for the masses. Since Kaplan

    ignores what Maimonides says in his Letter on Resurrection, I think we

    must conclude that, at least when he wrote this letter, he did not

    regard it as reflecting Maimonides’ authentic view.[7] In Kaplan’s later

    works, there is no hint of such an approach to Maimonides.[8]


    In discussing Jesus, Kaplan writes: “In this light, we can even regard

    the miracles ascribed to Jesus to be true, without undermining our own

    faith, since his message was not to the Jews at all.”[9]

  3. https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/With_Perfect_Faith/OKL4bGl-S80C?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=bleich+with+perfect+faith&pg=PT6&printsec=frontcover

    some pages from the Maamar Techiyat Hameitim by Rambam are visible here, though not in its entirety

  4. https://www.sefaria.org/Iggerot_HaRambam%2C_Maamar_Tekhiyat_HaMetim?lang=bi


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