M'chayyei Metim

Contributed by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis

"Resurrection." M'chayyei Metim is the doctrine that the dead will undergo an embodied restoration in the World-to-Come. First mentioned explicitly in the Book of Daniel, resurrection has been a central concept of the afterlife in Judaism;1Maimonides regarded it to be one of the thirteen doctrines a faithful Jew must believe.

On Judgment Day, all the dead will be resurrected with the blast of a shofar and be judged for their actions in life. Those buried in the land of Israel will be the first to rise from the grave.2 Those who died outside the land will have to journey there first through subterranean conduits.3 The righteous, as well as those who have atoned for their sins through time spent in Gehenna, will know an afterlife in a perfected body.4 Those who constitute the incorrigible sinners will be annihilated, body and soul, and their memory blotted out from under heaven. Some sources treat resurrection as an intermediate phase before the souls go on to a disembodied existence in eternity.

Eleazer of Worms suggested that the truly righteous have the power to resurrect the dead, as demonstrated by the examples of Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel. This power, however, is not a miracle performed by God through the agency of these prophets. Rather, the ability to resurrect is an autonomous power that results of the saint's own knowledge of how to manipulate the mystical power of the alphabet, especially the 72-word name of God,5 the same power that can be used to construct a golem.

Article copyright © 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.