Long before the Zombie craze hit the movie industry, Judaism had been speaking of raising the dead for thousands of years. While not in the context of horror films – I never really understood the attraction of such entertainment – Resurrection happens to be a fundamental concept in Jewish tradition. Maimonides mentions it as one of the 13 core principles of Jewish belief which are listed after the morning service in many Siddurim, prayer books.
And speaking of prayers, right there near the beginning of the most important prayer of the day – the Shemoneh Esrei or Amidah – we speaks of God’s power in terms of His ability to bring the dead back to life, known as Techiat Hamatim – Resurrection of the Dead.
You are eternally mighty, Lord. You give life to the dead and have great power to save. He sustains the living with loving-kindness and with great compassion revives the dead. He supports the fallen, heals the sick, sets captives free, and keeps His faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like You, Master of might, and to whom can You be compared, O King who brings death and gives life, and makes salvation grow? Faithful are You to revive the dead. Blessed are You, Lord, who revives the dead.
Six times do we associate God’s might with Techiat Hamatim. Both Maimonides and the Siddur are referring to a future time, long after the arrival of the Messiah according to most traditions.
Personally, when it comes to those far off future events, it’s not exactly something I think about too much nor do I fret over really. It’s one of those ideas where I tell myself, “Whatever… we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” On the other hand, we might ponder such ideas as we get older and especially after losing one’s parents. The notion that we will all be together again at some point down the line is a comforting one. (Well, maybe not for those who don’t get along so famously with their parents.)
But let’s bring it down a notch so we can maybe better understand this whole Resurrection thing. Let’s talk about my bike and my car.
A while ago, when I wanted to take my bike for a spin, I saw the front tire was flat. My first instinct was to hitch it to my bike rack and drive to Big Wheel cycle shop to get it fixed. But I saw I had a spare tube in the garage and, being that my bike is a non-traditional left-fork design (google “Cannondale Bad Boy 5” to see what I mean), it is pretty straight forward to change a tube. And I did just that. I must say that I was quite proud of myself. I had not changed a bike tire since I was a kid (back then we used to patch them with the tube-in-the-bucket-of-water method) and was happy that I saved myself a trip to the bike shop and about 20 bucks as well.
And then there are the many times I think of ditching my 2007 Saab whenever anything goes wrong. But I always relent and take the time and effort to find the part online, take it to my mechanic, Rami and get it fixed. And suddenly, voila! My thoughts of the Saab being dead and gone transform as it magically comes back to life; the turbo engine purring and revving, even at 146,000 miles, like the day I bought it. Hey, just this week a 16-year-old kid told me that he thought my Saab was the coolest car. Vintage, baby. Everything old is new again.
What’s the pleasure of fixing something? It’s not just the joy of accomplishment but also the pleasure of bringing back to life something that is thought to be done and gone. Getting my bike fixed or having my car back up and running is like getting it back new again. And granted we are not talking about anything earth shattering like God-made Resurrection of Life, but that doesn’t take away from the pleasure of making something usable and giving it life once again.
In Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s signature class, The Five Levels of Pleasure he mentions that one of the highest levels of pleasure is the pleasure of Creativity. All pleasures are a reflection of God, but Creativity has a special place. In fact, when we first meet God in the Torah, what is He doing? Yup, creating. Making life. Making something from nothing – literally.
Creating is one of, if not the most fundamental expressions of God Almighty. And so whenever we are in the Creating mode, no matter what we do – from the most sublime such as creating a life when raising a child, or running your business or creating art or music or writing, or even fixing your bike – it is a bit of a high and extremely enjoyable because we are being God-like. Creativity and its cousin, Power are the truest expressions and manifestations of God. And deep down, our soul knows that. And so when we create and make and build and fix, it lets us touch God by being like Him.
God didn’t make a world for it to cease and stop. He didn’t create humans and life to be final when it passes. Things come back, souls are restored, bodies get fixed, Resurrection happens. It’s what God does. And guess what? So do we when we do our own resurrecting. We might be not causing the dead to rise from their graves, but every time we create and make and fix and build our world to be just a little bit better, the ground begins to shake, if ever so slightly.
I had a life and a place in the world
I had a sweet talkin’ wife and a beautiful girl
I know I’m never gonna see ’em again
Gonna tear the world up until I have my revenge
They took my life but it isn’t the end
They put me in the ground but I’m back from the dead…
Lord knows I should be pushing daisies
I was six feet down but something raised me up
Sent back for to lift my curse