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Friday, September 18, 2015

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi on the Afterlife

video
The topic of Yosef Mizrachi's video as posted on Facebook is the afterlife in the Torah. Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, one of the most famous kiruv clowns appears to claim that the afterlife and rewards in the afterlife is something he can prove from the Written Torah. When I was still frum, I was bothered why the Torah never mentions anything about Olam Haba (the afterlife).

Let's first watch the video (it is just under 4 minutes), and then let's address Mizrachi's claims one by one.

First claim: The Torah speaks about the afterlife in Devarim


Quote: להטיב לך ולבניך עד עולם

The pasuk quoted does not seem to exist, but he probably means this verse in Devarim 12:28:

שְׁמֹ֣ר וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֗ אֵ֚ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י מְצַוֶּ֑ךָּ לְמַעַן֩ יִיטַ֨ב לְךָ֜ וּלְבָנֶ֤יךָ אַחֲרֶ֙יךָ֙ עַד־עוֹלָ֔ם כִּ֤י תַעֲשֶׂה֙ הַטּ֣וֹב וְהַיָּשָׁ֔ר בְּעֵינֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

"Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the eyes of the LORD thy God."

The context of the verse is the prohibition of eating blood. This is not directed at one person but to the Jewish people as a whole. The promise is that all will go well with you if you refrain from eating blood.

Ad Olam here translates as "forever", but does not necessarily mean anything outside of the physical world. It definitely can't mean someone's specific afterlife. Rather, it refers to the perpetuity of the Jewish people: thee, and with thy children after thee for ever.

Claim 2: The Torah says there is reward in the afterlife


Quote: כי מנסה ה' אתכם לראות התשמור מצוותי אם לא להטיבך באחריתך

Perhaps he meant Devarim 8:2:

וְזָכַרְתָּ אֶת-כָּל-הַדֶּרֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר הוֹלִיכְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ זֶה אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה--בַּמִּדְבָּר: לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ לְנַסֹּתְךָ, לָדַעַת אֶת-אֲשֶׁר בִּלְבָבְךָ הֲתִשְׁמֹר מִצְו‍ֹתָו--אִם-לֹא

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that He might afflict thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no.
It then says 14 (!) verses down:

הַמַּאֲכִלְךָ מָן בַּמִּדְבָּר אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ וּלְמַעַן נַסֹּתֶךָ לְהֵיטִבְךָ בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ׃

...who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might afflict thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end

Lehativecha ba'acharitecha means to reward you later on in life, just like it says (Mishlei 19:20):

שְׁמַע עֵצָה וְקַבֵּל מוּסָר לְמַעַן תֶּחְכַּם בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ

I assume he agrees that the author of Mishlei did not mean that you become smart after you die. That would be really weird.

Notice that I am not saying here that 'acharitecha' can not possibly mean eternal life. I am only saying that since it can be explained otherwise, you can't bring 'proof' from there.

Claim 3: The Torah says that there is a world where the souls go


Quote: ותצא נפש רחל ותמת רחל

Again, the pasuk is not quoted correctly. I found it in Bereishit 35:18-19:

יח וַיְהִי בְּצֵאת נַפְשָׁהּ, כִּי מֵתָה, וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, בֶּן-אוֹנִי; וְאָבִיו, קָרָא-לוֹ בִנְיָמִין. יט וַתָּמָת, רָחֵל; וַתִּקָּבֵר בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְרָתָה, הִוא בֵּית לָחֶם.

18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing--for she died--that she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath--the same is Beth-lehem.

The verses only mention that Rachel's nefesh (life force) went out of her body, it doesn't mention that it is a self-contained entity called soul travels up to another world. Rather, it refers to the life spirit people thought to be in the air (see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_in_the_Bible)

He then proceeds to quote Kohelet which is already after the period of the Babylonians where they learnt the concept of the afterlife from.

Claim 4: The Torah believes there is a separation between body and a soul


Quote (Bereishit 2:7):

וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם עָפָר מִן הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַיְהִי הָאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה

"Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Same thing. The concept of the breath of the living spirit is a belief that people had that the life force was in the air (proof: you choke someone and he dies), so this life force entered the body and it came to life.

Notice here that it didn't say that man embodied the soul, but he became a living creature. It just says that the body came to life. This does not equal the concept of an immortal soul.

In summary:

- We have no proof that the Torah mentions anything about an afterlife
- And nothing either about a reward in that afterlife
- Mizrachi is wrong. Again.