The rabbinical changes to Judaism affected this life, but more importantly the next one. In Torah Judaism, there is no afterlife. At Saul’s behest, the witch “woke up” the spirit of Prophet Samuel, who was rather disconcerted by the intrusion.

Afterlife reward and punishment is a rabbinical tool to keep the flock at bay. After the rabbis heaped a load of new rules on Jews, they needed to frighten the flock into compliance. That constituted a break with the Torah, which trusts humans to do good things on their own conscience.

In order to teach resurrection, the rabbis read literally a poetic metaphor of God breathing life into dry bones. The scriptural basis for paradise is still slimmer: Moses is said to “join his forefathers” upon his death, which is again interpreted literally as them being alive in a sense. Rabbis insist vehemently that the Torah lacks poetry and that every statement is literally true, but interpret rather parabolically when they need to: thus, “an eye for an eye” became a doctrine of just compensation. No one would treat literally the Genesis accounts of God flying above the primordial waters, forming man from dust, and breathing life into him.

The early Pharisaic rabbis held that good people are reincarnated while evil people are not; that was hard to correlate with the notion that Abraham resides in paradise rather than on earth. The doctrine was later adapted to state that good people will be resurrected to eternal life at the end of days while the evil ones will remain dead. Even such a far-fetched doctrine lacks afterlife punishment.

Numerous oddities ensue. Since the end, according to rabbis, will come when all Jews have gone bad, it follows that good souls depend on the bad people for pleasant resurrection. Souls presumably enjoy the eternal bliss and want no part in the resurrection—thus the souls of good people are actually punished by resurrection. There is a fundamental injustice in slapping a soul with eternal punishment for evil deeds in the temporal world; logic tells us that finite things are negligible compared to infinity.

The problems mount when we consider the incorporeality of souls. There is the famous Sadducean example of a woman who married several husbands; the question is whom she would be with in the afterlife. The Sadduceans, the Temple priests, rejected the folk tales of resurrection. The rabbis countered that the afterlife lacks human feelings and attachments. But if that is so, then what is there human about souls? In the afterlife, your soul would glide past the souls of your wife and children, unmoved and emotionless. This isn’t exactly a paradise. Perhaps there is something better, like a total unity, but that is still not a reward for your earthly life in any meaningful sense. Life as we know it only exists in this world.

It seems that souls are not purified from their earthly attachments immediately. Some wander around, and others reappear time to time. After some period, when their attachments to the earth are gone, souls seem to lose any touch with this world and firmly descend into Sheol, the place of eternal sleep clearly described in the Scripture.

Lacking forms or attributes, souls cannot be distinguished from each other. As Rambam argues in regard to God, something which lacks distinguishable hypostases is necessarily one. If all souls are actually manifestations of a single soul, then it cannot be good or bad; it would be illogical to praise one’s right hand and curse the left one. Souls—or the soul—exist beyond good and evil, and cannot be judged for their deeds committed while in human form.

This is something we cannot fully comprehend: all souls are instruments of God’s will, Moses and Stalin alike. It seems that their exercise of free will is commendable in itself despite the way they exercise it. A hammer is good whether it builds or breaks.

We arrive in this world to do the things which God cannot do directly: physical actions according to his will. His influence in this world after the Creation can be remotely likened to a magnetic field: he moves the things, but the things must be there. He created the world with its laws of nature like a board game with its rules; we’re the participants who must play according to the rules.

Consider this: a researcher who conducts experiments on mice is moved by them. Depending on the behavior of the mice, he changes his subsequent actions, conducts different experiments. A card player is influenced by the cards; his moves depend on them. The strictest ruler is influenced by his subjects: if they riot, he proceeds to punishing them. The suggestion that God influences things on earth, that he rewards and punishes humans according to their behavior, denigrates him: by violating his commandments humans must be able to provoke him into rage. But we imagine God immovable, above all influences. Some avoid the contradiction by imagining that the Creator and his creations are one. The Babylonians, too, thought the world was created out of the proto-deity. For the purposes of our discussion, that also means the similarity of all souls: they all abide in God and cannot be distinguished as good or bad, subject to paradise or punishment.

There is no contract between God and us: he can do whatever he wishes, down to destroying his Temple and exiling his people, but we must still observe his commandments—or rather, his commands.

We do not enter this world to study the Torah; God does not need our knowledge. We are here to act upon his will.