The Problems With The World To Come: Round 2

If you haven't already, make sure to see the first post about this topic.

In a brief back-and-forth on Twitter, DovBear suggested that I am conflating two different things — namely, halachic laws from Sinai, versus aggadic ideas that have a different status. Thus, when I argue that we accept the doctrine of black tefillen without question and that this should be no different than accepting the doctrine of the World to Come, this is, according to DovBear, a bad argument. First of all, there are plenty of non-Halachic concepts that are not mentioned in the Torah but that we accept anyway: For starters, the existence of an Oral Law at all, God’s incorporeality, the full doctrine of reward and punishment, the mechanics of prophecy, and so on…

But that doesn't even matter. Reject that entire last paragraph if you will. Because, second, while the concept of a World to Come does not fall into the realm of Halacha, it does not quite fall into the realm of aggadah either. It’s not the same sort of thing as God holding a mountain over the Jews’ heads. So, while no, it is not a halachic concept, it’s not just one midrash somewhere that we can cast aside as hyperbolic. The concept of an afterlife is very clearly taken as literal by all the great scholars of Judaism, throughout the generations. The 11th chapter of Sanhedrin has some pretty bad things to say about people who disregard the afterlife/resurrection as fiction. It is viewed as something very real in our tradition. Any teaching of our tradition that is not halachic can just be cast aside now? I’m not sure I understand the logic in that…

Which brings me to my third and final point here, and that is that I think DovBear misses my argument here entirely. It makes no difference if the concept of the World to Come is halachic or aggadic. I accept the flow of history that brings me our Jewish tradition. The same tradition that teaches the divinity of the Torah and the divinity of the Oral Law, also teaches me that tefillen should be black and square, the laws of mikvaos, and, more than just seemingly, that there is a World to Come (whatever that means — see previous post on the subject).

And, as a slight aside, I should point out here as well that I accept the divinity of the Torah because of our flow of history/tradition — not the other way around. So it honestly makes no difference to me what is, and is not, explicitly mentioned in the Torah. Indeed, according to the Sages, the afterlife is indeed mentioned/alluded to in the Torah, just as many halachic concepts are — even though it might not appear as such.

And so once again, I return to my original argument: If you accept the tradition, you accept the tradition. And our tradition does not teach the concept of the afterlife as hyperbolic or metaphor. (Now, of course, that doesn’t ipso facto make it true… but hey, I can only tackle so much in one post.)

The Problems With The World To Come: Round 3

The Problems With The World To Come