Science in the Torah

Does a Human Go Out of Existence When He Dies?

The Torah teaches us that there is life after death and even describes in detail what happens to the soul after a person's demise. Only recently modern science has come to similar conclusions regarding what happens to a person after his death.

Does a Human Go Out of Existence When He Dies?

Two decades ago, many newspapers in Israel and around the world came out with booming headlines announcing that for the first time, scientists claim that there is life after death!!

Let us quote an example from a newspaper (a copy of the article appears in the popular booklet “Life — Why and What for?”, page 16):

“Scientists, doctors and psychiatrists are claiming — for the first time — that there is life after death. They spent years researching patients who were pronounced clinically dead and afterwards returned to life. They say that they discovered experiences in common which prove that death is not nonexistence.

“Dr. Raymond A. Moody, a psychiatrist with a degree in philosophy from Virginia University, brings in his book ‘Life After Life’ testimonies of people who experienced death. These terminal patients or accident victims were declared dead but survived as ‘medical miracles.’ There are different variations to their experiences, but certain elements from the hours or seconds of their ‘passing’ are repeated in all their stories: a dark tunnel, a bright, huge light which was a ‘being’ conveying unlimited love. The being spoke to them by means of thoughts. They saw their relatives and friends who had passed away before them coming towards them, they saw rapid but clear scenes from their lives, and all of them, without exception, were able to see and hear what was taking place around the physical body they had left ‘behind.’ All of them related in detail what had happened to them on the operating table when they ‘passed away’ or in the smashed up car where they had been ‘killed’. The details were exact down to the last medical detail. The doctors who treated them don’t understand how they observed all this at a time when according to medicine, they were dead, without a pulse, breathing or brainwaves.

“‘I knew I had died,’ one such woman reported. ‘But I couldn’t do a thing, because no one was listening to me. I left my body, I have no doubt about it, because I saw my body lying on the operating table and heard the doctors “giving up” on me. I felt terrible, because I didn’t want to die. Suddenly I saw a light. It was at first dim but then it strengthened. It was a blinding light, difficult to describe. It encompassed everything, but didn’t blind me and I was able to keep seeing the operating room. When the great light was over me — or rather, when I was inside of it — I didn’t understand what was happening. But when the light asked me if I was ready to die, I had a feeling as if I was speaking with a person. But it wasn’t a person. It was the light that was speaking… that communicated. I knew the light knows that I wasn’t ready to die. I had a feeling as if I was being tested. I felt so good. I felt safe and loved. It’s difficult to describe, difficult to explain…’

“Another witness, Susie Hulda, describes her ‘near death’ experience this way: ‘I was rushed to the hospital in the fifth month of my pregnancy for a miscarriage. The pregnancy was unsuccessful because I was very sick. The doctors were under pressure and decided on an emergency cesarean, but I was not worried. I think that by then I had made peace with the fact that I was going ... then I remember that I lost consciousness.

 “‘The next thing I remember is that I was looking over my body, and people were bent over it. Then I saw a circle with blue light in it radiating white light, and I found myself drawn to the blue light. I was surrounded by peace, serenity and absolute beauty. I felt like I was floating. I was sucked deeper into a tunnel, at the end of which was light, and I heard in it a voice speaking to me: “Do you really think you did what you had to do? Are you going to leave your child, three-year old Simon, alone?” This voice softly repeated itself again and again.

“‘I thought to myself: If people really knew what death means, they would not be afraid, because it doesn’t matter what happens to your body because you are not it. You are a free consciousness, full of light. I realized that this was the moment to choose. I could continue into the light, but I found myself being drawn back. There was a kind of noise, and suddenly I found myself in my body, surrounded by an i.v. and a huge commotion.’”

The one who has seriously investigated this matter for over twenty years is the famous American psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. "I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that life goes on after physical death,” she sums up her research of over 20 years.

“I am very skeptical by nature so I carefully examined every aspect of this experience. I found, for example, that people whose limbs had been amputated, said that when they left their bodies as souls, they again were whole. Moreover, blind people who for years had never seen light, reported that they could see. Even people who were blind from birth described to me in amazing detail what people were wearing in the room where their body was lying, which jewelry they had on and what they did. I mean, it's impossible! How could they know that?"

Kubler-Ross does not see any need or reason to convince others of the truth of the phenomenon. "These who are open to hearing it will hear it, and those who block it out — will be surprised one day…” she avers.

Research shows many elements common to the millions who have experienced near death experiences (thirty million!) from around the world. The first description common to all of them is hovering over and near the physical body. The witnesses relate they had clear knowledge of everything going on around them. Most of them then describe being in a lit environment of inner beauty and gliding toward a bright light through a dark tunnel. Many witnesses tell of a voice speaking to them.

Disabled people spoke of a sense of liberation from their constraints, and almost all of them mentioned the disappearance of human fear from this mysterious thing called “death”.

Researchers of the phenomenon particularly point out that the same elements cannot keep coming up in the testimonies of millions of people, unless they had all experienced something real.

Leben ("Life"), a fascinating book that captivated the hearts of young and old alike, was published in Germany in 2001, and became popular among old and young alike. It argues that while the 20th century man is willing to ask himself questions like: "Where did I come from?”, and "Where am I going”, he tends to avoid the subject of death and even develops fears and anxieties on the issue because of his materialistic perspective on life.

The book states that life on earth is only one part of one’s life, and is just a stopover in the soul’s journey. It is a learning period for the soul. The Earth is a school.

The soul enters the physical body at the moment of birth and is bound to it until death, which is akin to removing a garment from a body. Sometimes the soul leaves the live body, especially during deep sleep or in a state of unconsciousness. But unlike death, in these situations it is still attached to the body through a thin energetic cord.

Joha Schnell, a therapist from Germany, says that she witnessed many people dying over twenty years, and was always able to see the energy field beginning to form over the dead physical body.

What is interesting is that psychiatrist-researcher Kubler-Ross herself had an experience of near death: "There is a big difference between believing twenty thousand cases and actually having the experience yourself,” she says. “And I say jokingly that my experience was more beautiful than the twenty thousand cases I researched. Once you have been in this light and experienced the peace and love, it changes all of your values. It changes the quality of your life.”

The large number of those who return back to life in our generation is explained by Professor Kenneth Ring, a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Connecticut, who was the director of the International Association for Near-Death Study in the university’s medical school. He believes that enormous strides in resuscitation technology in our times have brought back people from a state of near death to life.

For the first time, scientists in our times have discovered that there is life after death. What did the Torah say about this thousands of years ago??

***

“And remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of evil (old age) come, and the years arrive about which you will say, ‘I have no desire in them’ … Before the silver cord snaps … And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God, Who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)

Because the Torah, which came long before contemporary science, is supernatural, it not only knew that there is life after death, it also revealed to our people what would happen to the person after his body dies! From the innumerable details provided by the Torah, we will suffice with a number of statements from the Oral Tradition about life after death.

“Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before Whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting. From where you came--from a putrid drop; where you are going--to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting — before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.” (Avot 3:1)

Now let us shine the light on how the Torah relates to the following discoveries mentioned in the recent research studies:

1. It is possible to return to life after clinical death.

2. After their death, the deceased see a great, powerful light which is a “being” radiating unlimited love. It speaks with them telepathically.

3. The deceased see a chronological replay of their lives at lightning speed.

4. Relatives and friends who passed away earlier come out to meet the deceased.

5. The dead are able to know everything that transpires around the physical body lying below (including those who were blind in their lifetime[1]!!)

Astonishingly, all the five phenomenon above, and much more than them, appear in several places in the Torah in far greater detail than what appeared in the scientific studies. Let us quote a few of them here.
 

1. It is possible to return to life after clinical death.

The tractate of Semachot (beginning of Chapter 8) relates: “We go to a cemetery up to three days [after burial] and check the dead. Once a person was found alive and he went on to live another 25 years.”

This means that up to three days after the burial, one should go to the cemetery and check whether the buried deceased has come back to life, since up to three days, there is a chance that they will return to life (!) (See the Prisha #394 that this was done during the time when they buried people in catacombs instead of the ground.) It happened once that one was found alive and lived another 25 years.

The Talmud (Bava Basra 10b) relates that Rabbi Yosef the son of Rabbi Yoshua passed away and then returned to life. His father asked him, “What did you see there?” He said, “I saw an upside-down world (the opposite of This World). Those who were at the top here (because of their wealth, etc.) are at the bottom there, and those who were at the bottom here (people considered simple but still true servants of G-d) are at the top there. His father told him, “You saw the real world!”

The Talmud relates (Rosh Hashona 17a) about Rav Huna the son of Rabbi Yoshua that he came back to life and told Rabbi Pappa that he was supposed to die, but G-d said that since he overlooks those who wrong him instead of demanding that they get what they deserve, the heavenly host would also overlook what he deserves. Rav Huna was worthy to hear the reason why he was allowed to return to life. See the Zohar’s story about the child who prayed that his father be allowed to live so he could study with him, and his father returned to life.
 

2. After their death, the deceased see a great, powerful light which is a “being” radiating unlimited love. It speaks with them telepathically.

The Zohar relates (Breishit 218a):

“When Adam’s days were completed and his time to die arrived, he was given permission to see what he wasn’t permitted to see before.”

It is known that heavenly revelations are compared to light. See Sefer ha-Yashar (Gate 14): “The World to Come is wide, without ends, and has a great light which cannot be compared to the light of This World.”

It is worth noting the words of our sages:

“The verse says: ‘For no man can see me and live’ (Ex. 33). They cannot see during their life but they can see after their death.” (Bamidbar Rabba, end of Noso)

The sages also say: “When the time comes for a person to die, G-d reveals himself to him,” etc. (Yalkut Shimoni Job, 922).

 

3. The deceased see a chronological replay of their lives at lightning speed.

Before the camera and camcorders and screen players were invented to record the present so people can see it in the future, these words referring to those who had near death experiences were utterly incomprehensible: how can one see what had happened in the past?!? How could it be?

Thousands of years ago the sages wrote this unequivocal sentence:

“When a person passes away, all his deeds are shown in detail before him.” (Sifrei, Ha’azinu)

 

4. Relatives and friends who passed away earlier come out to meet the deceased.

The holy Zohar brings the continuation of the citation brought in #2 above concerning what a person is allowed to see when he passes away:

“His father and relatives are there with him, he sees them and isaaware of them, and they go and accompany his soul until the place where he will remain.”

Concerning what happens on the date of dying, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai relates about himself in the Zohar (beginning of Idra Zuta):

 “Rabbi Shimon wrapped himself in his garment, and began, ‘“The dead will not praise you”: Rabbi Hamnuna Saba is here and around him are 70 righteous men with engraved crowns and each one shines light on the others.’ While they were sitting, he said, ‘Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair is here, make a place for him.’ His colleagues that were with him were intimidated and they got up and went to the corners of the house…”

The Talmud (Brachot 28) mentions that Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai said just before his passing: “Prepare a chair for Hezekiah the King of Judah who just came!” (Rashi: “to accompany me.”)

 

5. The dead know everything that transpires around the physical body.

The sages, whose information did not come from studying those who returned to life after experiencing clinical death, but from the Creator’s profound and all-inclusive Torah, knew what the researchers have only found out now as well as what the researchers still don’t know. The sages relate what happens when the soul is around the body (Yerushalmi Yevamot 16:3):

“For three days after the passing, the soul hovers above the body.”

The Talmud (Shabbat 152b) relates:

“It knows everything that they say in front of the dead.”

Talmud Brachot 18b speaks about souls holding a discussion after they died. Bava Metzia (84b) relates that Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai would reply to questions after he died. Moed Katan (25a) recounts a discussion between Yehudah and Chizkiyahu, the sons of Rabbi Chiya, in their graves. Kesuvot (103a) mentions that Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi would visit his house every Shabbat eve after he had passed away. Taanit (23b) speaks about a great sage who helped his son after he had passed away. Shabbat (152b) brings Rabbi Ahai who rebuked diggers from inside his grave. Brachot (18b) says that Zeiri asked for his pledge from a woman who had passed away and she revealed the place where she had hidden it and also announced that a certain woman would pass away and arrive at the cemetery the next day. It also discusses Shmuel’s discussion with the dead.

 


[1]. According to one of Dr. Kubler-Ross’s witnesses, a chemist who became blind due to an explosion in the laboratory, experienced clinical death a year later and returned to life. Despite his blindness, he related detailed experiences of his death including what he saw “from above.”

 

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