Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three

 

Introduction

This lengthy mishnah lists groups of people in the Bible who do not have a portion in the world to come.  In each case the mishnah brings a Biblical text to proves its point.

 

1)                     The generation of the flood has no portion in the world to come, nor will they stand at the [last] judgment, as it says, “[And the Lord said,] my spirit will not always enter into judgment with man” (Genesis 6:3), [meaning] there will be neither judgment nor [my] spirit for them.  

2)                     The generation of the dispersion have no portion in the world to come, as it says, “So the Lord scattered them from there upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8): “So the lord scattered them”, refers to this world, “And from there the Lord scattered them” (Genesis 11:9), refers to the world to come.

3)                     The men of Sodom have no portion in the world to come, as it says, “And the men of Sodom were wicked and great sinners before the Lord” (Genesis 13:13):  “wicked” in this world, and “sinners” in the world to come;

a)                                           Yet will they stand at judgment.

b)                                          R. Nehemiah says: “Neither [the generation of the flood nor the men of Sodom] will stand at judgment, as it says, “Therefore the wicked shall not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalms 1:5) “Therefore the wicked shall not stand in judgment”, refers to the generation of the flood; “nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous”, refers to the men of Sodom.

c)                                           They [the Sages] said to him: “They will not stand in the congregation of the righteous, but they will stand in the congregation of the wicked.” 

4)                     The spies have no portion in the world to come, as it says, “And those men that spread such calumnies about the land, died by the plague before the lord” (Numbers 14:37):  “[they] died” — in this world, “by the plague” — in the world to come. 

5)                     The generation of the wilderness have no share in the world to come and will not stand at the [last] judgment, as it says, “In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die” (Numbers 14:35),  according to the words of Rabbi Akiba.

a)                                           Rabbi Eliezer says: “Concerning them it is said, ‘Bring in My devotees, who made a covenant with Me over sacrifice” (Psalms 50:5).

6)                     The congregation of Korah is not destined to ascend [from the earth], as it says, “And the earth closed upon them”— in this world, “and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:33) — in the world to come, according to the words of Rabbi Akiba.

a)                                           Rabbi Eliezer says: “Concerning them it is said,  ‘The Lord kills and makes alive: He brings down to Sheol, and brings up” (I Samuel 2:6).

7)                     The ten tribes will not return [to the Land of Israel], for it is said, “And He cast them into another land, as is this day” (Deuteronomy 29:27): just as the day goes and does not return, so they too went and will not return: according to the words of Rabbi Akiba.

a)                                           Rabbi Eliezer says: “‘As is this day’ — just as the day darkens and then becomes light again, so the ten tribes — even as it went dark for them, so will it in the future become light for them.

 

Explanation—Mishnah Three

Section one:  Due to the extreme severity of their crimes the generation of the flood not only has no portion in the world to come, but they also will not have the opportunity to stand in judgement at the time of the resurrection.  This mishnah discusses in several points a certain type of future judgement, which is somewhat separate from a person’s portion in the world to come.  It is difficult to ascertain with any sense of certainty to what the mishnah is exactly referring.

Section two:  The generation of the dispersion, which happened when humanity tried to build the Tower of Babel, has no place in the world to come.  The Rabbis understood their sin to be one of rebellion against God.

Section three:  The men of Sodom also do not have a place in the world to come.  However, according to the Sages, they do have the opportunity to stand in judgement at the time of resurrection.  Although they do not have a promised place in the world to come as do the righteous, they at least have the opportunity to stand in judgement.  According to the Sages, this is also true of the generation of dispersion.  According to Rabbi Nehemiah, they do not even have the opportunity to stand in judgement.  He proves this opinion by using a proof text from the book of Psalms.

Section four:  The spies, who brought back to Moses and the Children of Israel an evil report about the Land of Israel, do not have a place in the world to come.  Due to their extreme lack of faith in God, they are not only killed in this world but lose hope for the future.

 

The final three sections of our mishnah contain disputes between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer.  In each case Rabbi Akiva takes a more strict opinion, one which leaves less hope for the future.

Section five:  According to Rabbi Akiva, all of the children of Israel who died in the desert lose their portion in the world to come and are not even allowed to stand for judgement in the time of the resurrection.  Even though this generation received the Torah at Sinai, as well as witnessing the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, their sins in the desert, including the worst sin of all, lack of faith in God when they accepted the spies’ evil report, cause them to lose their portion in the world to come.  Rabbi Eliezer learns from a verse in Psalms that all of those who made a covenant with God have a portion in the world to come, despite the severity of their sins.

Section six:  According to Rabbi Akiva, the congregation of Korach who were swallowed up by the Earth in punishment for rebelling against Moses and Aaron will never be brought back up.  Rabbi Eliezer disagrees.  Based on a verse in I Samuel he points out that God has the power not only to send down to Sheol but He may bring up as well.

Section seven:  According to Rabbi Akiva, once the ten northern tribes of Israel (see II Kings 17) were sent into exile they were never to return.  Again, Rabbi Eliezer disagrees.  Although the day turned metaphorically dark on these tribes, they retain the hope for a bright future.  Just as the night eventually turns to light, so too will the ten tribes one day be returned to their land. 

 

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