The Evolution of Jewish Beliefs about the Afterlife

Discussion of the afterlife is largely absent from Jewish religious discussion today, but for a long time the concept of postmortem reward and punishment was an important part of Judaism. Elon Gilad traces these ideas from their biblical origins and explains how they changed and developed. It seems that they key moment for cementing belief in the afterlife came around the first century CE, as Gilad writes (free registration required):

According to Josephus, a Jewish historian writing at the end of the first century CE, the question of afterlife was a major point of contention for Jewish theologians of the period. The Sadducees, the prominent priestly class who ran the Temple, did not believe in an afterlife, or in the resurrection of the dead, Josephus writes. Meanwhile, their counterparts and adversaries, the Pharisees, an elite of experts in Jewish law, believed in both.

Once the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the Sadducees and their theology were lost, and the Pharisees and their conception of the afterlife became mainstream rabbinical Judaism.

Thus, from the time of early rabbinic Judaism, belief in the afterlife and the resurrection of the dead became core to the faith. “All Israel have a portion in the world to come,” the Mishnah (200 CE) states, only to qualify this statement with a list of individuals who are excluded: “One who maintains that resurrection is not a biblical doctrine, the Torah was not divinely revealed, and a heretic.”

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Afterlife, Jewish history, Josephus, Judaism, Kabbalah, Religion & Holidays


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security