"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 3: "Humankind"
Body and soul each go their own way at death. The body returns to the dust
from which it was made 1, and the soul goes to The Soul World
That is, the soul doesn’t just passively anticipate its true and infinite
reward in The World to Come while the body decomposes, is purified, and then
returns to the soul 3. It enjoys something of the delight it will
enjoy in The World to Come 4, according to the merits it will
have earned in the physical world there in The Soul World (just as the
delight it will experience in The World to Come will correspond to its
merits) 5. Nonetheless, as we said 6, true and fulsome
reward and delight will ultimately be experienced by the body and soul together.
1. “For you are dust, and you will return to the dust” (Genesis 3: 19).
2. In fact, the soul returns to its source as well: it revisits the Soul
World from which it actually originated. See Tanchuma Pikudei 3 for the
details of the soul’s experience before birth, also see Zohar 1:91b.
As to the posthumous experience of The Soul World, also known as “The Garden
of Eden” or “Heaven”, there are several Traditional discussions of it. See
Emunot v’De’ot 6:7, Moreh Nevuchim 1:70, Ikkarim 4:30, Torat HaAdam (Sha’ar
HaGemul). Also see Shabbos 152b, Chagigah 12b, Tosephot (Rosh Hashanah 16b,
“leyom hadin”), Vayikra Rabbah 18:1, Kohelet Rabbah 12:7.
The point, though, is that this Soul World isn’t the ultimate reach or the
definitive end -- The World to Come, which is far more arcane and profound
an experience, is. The idea that there is something beyond the death
experience and its mysteries is one of the points that sets Judaism apart
from many other religions and world-views.
3. The body doesn’t just decompose in the dust, though: it has other
experiences there. See Da’at Tevunot 72 and Adir Bamarom pp. 123, 198 where
the cleansing process is discussed, and Derech Eitz Chaim (as well as Ari’s
Sha’ar Hagilgul 23:3 and Reishit Chochma, Sha’ar HaYirah Ch. 12) for
reference to Chibut HaKever (“the purgatory of the grave”).
4. See Ramchal’s Ma’amar HaChochma, “B’gemul”.
5. See 1:3:10.
6. See 1:3:7, 10.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.