כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Luz Bone

Returning in the flesh, Jewish style
According to current Jewish tradition, the belief in the resurrection of the dead is a principal article of faith:

“And these are the ones that will not have a portion in the World to Come: One who says that the resurrection of dead is not of biblical origin.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1)

(Incidentally, this means that if you don’t believe in heaven, you will not gain entrance to heaven. Which, I am afraid, won’t really scare anyone that doesn’t believe in heaven in the first place.)

Resurrection creates an obvious problem: After a person dies, the body disintegrates to such an extent that resurrecting it as is will not be feasible. Even better: sometimes there is nothing left of a body, e.g. when a body was burnt.

How does Judaism deal with this theological problem?

As it often does, the answer needs a miracle. The Rabbis believe that there is a bone in the human body from which the body is rebuilt after the resurrection. This is what is called the Luz bone. As stated in Bereishit Rabba 28:3:

“And G’d said: ‘I will wipe away mankind’... Hadrian was [once] grinding bones. He asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah: ‘From where does the Holy One Blessed be He reconstruct man in the future to come?’ He answered him: ‘From [the] Luz of the spine.’ Said he: ‘From where do you know this?’. He said: ‘It has come to me [it was delivered to me as a tradition] and I will show you.’ They tried to grind it in a mill but it was not ground, they burnt it in fire but it was not consumed, they put it in water but it was not softened, they put it on an anvil and he started to beat it with a hammer but the anvil slipped, the hammer was broken and it remained intact.”

Incidentally, muslims also believe in the Luz myth and call it "^Ajbu al-Thanab" (عَجْبُ الذَّنَب). At least something Muslims and Jews agree on!

However, it seems to be that the chiddush of the Luz bone was not entirely ours. The JewishEncyclopedia.com website brings the following:

Possibly the legend owes its origin to the Egyptian rite of burying "the spinal column of Osiris" in the holy city of Busiris, at the close of the days of mourning for Osiris, after which his resurrection was celebrated (Brugsch, "Religion und Mythologie," 1888, pp. 618, 634).

Luzing it
Now everybody knows that if you cremate a corpse that only ashes are left. Even the Ohr Somayach website says in an article on cremation (disagreeing with the Midrash):

“Furthermore, one who has his body cremated will not merit resurrection a fundamental belief of Judaism expressed in Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith: I believe with complete faith that there will be a resurrection of the dead, when the wish emanates from the Creator. One explanation is that cremation destroys even the extremely hard luz bone from which a buried body is reconstituted.”

The fantasy only starts from there. Same web site, different article:

It [the Luz bone] has curious properties: It receives nourishment only from food eaten Saturday night at the melave malka meal (Mishna Berurah 300:2 in the name of some ‘kadmonim’).

Rabbi Asher Meir from on the OU website adds:

“The Eliah Rabbah relates a remarkable tradition explaining the connection between the LUZ and melave malka. He points out that originally, the entire body was indestructible; Adam and Chava were meant to live forever.

Death was decreed for them only because they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. However, one tiny bone was not nourished by this fruit, the LUZ, which is only nourished by the Saturday night meal! Thus this bone retained its original, pre-fall immortality.”

Meir goes on to explain that Motzaei Shabbat is the day after Shabbat, the day representing Olam Haba and that Motza’ei Shabbat exudes a higher level of perfection. Therefore:

“this special limb was created to be nourished and cultivated only in an environment of perfected development.”

Note that association between ‘Luz’ and defying death was already hinted at in Bereishit Rabbah 69:8. There it tells us about the city of Luz and its magical powers over death:

“This is the same Luz that the Angel of Death never had power over.”


Bone of contention
Instead of scientificillay trying to  prove where the bone can be found, i.e. testing where this strongest bone really is to be found, there is a difference of opinion. After all, chazal would have nothing to teach if we didn’t have a machloket about every single thing, regardless of its sillyness.

The Arizal and Chida hold that it is located in the place where the knot of the tefillin is placed. This certainly sounds more mystical than some other commentators (including Aruch, Rokeach, Recanati) who believe that the Luz bone is located at the bottom of the spine and that it is nothing less than the tail bone (Coccyx), which incidentally is believed to be evidence for evolution.

And you know that many Rabbis believe that not believing in evolution is almost an article of faith. Just as belief in the resurrection is!


  1. nice! if my dog outlives me she'll definitely have a bone to pick!

  2. if you want to believe it, ther is certainly nothing to luz! :P

  3. Great puns throughout! And honestly, I'm not just rubbing you.

  4. Argh, should have said : ribbing you

  5. > ...which accidentally is believed to be evidence for evolution.

    I think you meant to say, "...which incidentally is believed to be evidence for evolution."

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. SY: Hehe ;)

    Hedyot: This was an accident ;) You are *right* - now I am *left* with nothing but correcting it.

  8. > He points out that originally, the entire body was indestructible; Adam and Chava were meant to live forever. Death was decreed for them only because they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. However, one tiny bone was not nourished by this fruit, the LUZ, which is only nourished by the Saturday night meal! Thus this bone retained its original, pre-fall immortality.”

    That’s brilliant! The logic is beautiful. If only the premises were true…

  9. Who cares about the truth? It's the end (religious nirvana) that justifies the means, don't you know?

  10. let me see if i understand this correctly . . .

    if someone is cremated, they are screwed because this magical bone is destroyed.

    Yet if someone dies in an explosion like an oil rig, which probably disintegrates the body even worse, they are fine?

  11. One can't help but wonder if this magical mythical bone would survive a nuclear blast as well. If it were ground to meal, would it resurrect a person from the remnants in a dog biscuit? If one were to consume it on Saturday evening, would two people eventually resurrect from the remaining luz bone?

    1. Physicist Samuel Cohen invented the Neutron Bomb that consumes the flesh but does not destroy the bones or bldgs. etc. See Zechariah 14:12

    2. Betty: How do you know the neutron bomb does not destroy bones? Got any source to back this up?

  12. I met someone whose brother perished in the first airplane of 9/11. Everything inside it was cremated. Yet, within the year they were able to identify his brother through DNA sampling of the Luz bone. If you wish, I could get you in contact with him. My email is charap@aol.com

    1. How do you know it was the Luz bone? Oh well, I guess you knew it because it was the bone that was left :)

  13. It always fascinates me when science and superstition touch fingertips round the back! Are not palaentologists hoping to breed dinosaurs using recovered DNA from fossils ?

    If Our Lord in His wisdom has decreed that one fragment (however microscopic)of each one of us is indestructible, and will be the "seed" from which our resurrection bodies will grow, then not even a nuclear explosion will be able to destroy it, just relocate it somewhere. So we can stop worrying. I am assuming that the regrown version will be perfect, lacking any current deformities and illnesses that assail the first time round!
    BTW I am writing from a Christian viewpoint but I am deeply respectful of my faith's Jewish origins.

    1. Barbara: It needs to be a little more than microscopic, there needs to be enough DNA to rebuild it. So what if that DNA also goes to waste?

  14. All bones get there strength and nourishment from food - food that's eaten when hungry. However Motzi shabbos most people that ate 3 big meals on shabbos are generally not to hungry when it comes to the melava malka. That's why the luz bone is different from all other bones and can not be destroyed. This bone was supported by food that was eaten leshem mitzvah and for no other purpose YES IT'S A HOLY BONE!!!!!!!

    1. you reckon the food goes directly into the bone, right? i think the majority will go to excrement. but believe whatever you wish to believe...