This week, Mikael Bang introduces a discussion of the afterlife in Judaism.
The concept of the afterlife permeates Jewish texts, and yet is veiled. There is a belief in “the world to come” [olam ha-ba]. Its meaning, however, has been the source of a 3000 year old discourse. Included in this idea of an afterlife is a Messiah, and a bride for a King. What is clear is anticipation: a longing for a “heavenly wedding”. Judaism speaks of a Book of Life often considered as a wedding list of invited guests. Hence, the hope one is invited and a sustained focus on how to prepare. No clearer is this seen than in the Sabbath. For six days God laboured, then enjoyed a unique rest. Judaism imitates this rest. Six days of work, then Friday Shabbat, a ritual of marriage. Broadly speaking, the focus in Judaism has been on preparing one’s soul for the “heavenly celebration” more than it has been to speculate on the afterlife per se. What is the afterlife? What can be said is that Wisdom instructs us to live and prepare as though one were invited to the Royal Court. As below, so above.
During the session we will consider the story of Noah’s Ark from Genesis (Chapters 6-8), and the Jewish tales “Elijah’s Violin” and “The Water Palace” from Howard Schwartz’s Leaves from the Garden of Eden (2009). One may also find helpful the documentary “Hasidism and Jewish Mysticism: a Personal Journey” available on youtube
Howard Schwartz, Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). [Tales 2 and 23]
Myth Reading Group
Thursday 4 February
12.00-1.30pm Room 3.318
Poster and texts: