Not many years ago, a large number of newspapers loudly proclaimed to their readers that scientists, for the first time, were making convincing claims that there is life after death. “Scientists claim for the first time that there is life after death,” begins one journalist’s account. “Scientists, doctors and psychologists, having studied for many years the phenomena of clinically dead patients who returned to life, claim that there are shared patterns in the testimony of these patients, thus showing that death is not the end.”
Dr. Raymond Moody, a world-renowned psychiatrist with a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Virginia, reports the accounts of people “who have seen death.” In his book Life after Life, he chronicles the accounts of terminally ill patients and victims of serious accidents who had been pronounced dead, yet ultimately lived as “medical miracles.” Though these people relate their experiences in a variety of ways, common elements return time again in their recollections of their “deaths”: a dark tunnel, a powerful light that was an “entity” pouring forth endless love, the light spoke to them telepathically, a vision of deceased relatives and friends coming to greet them; clear, fast-moving images from their lives. In addition, many individuals were able to hear and see all of the medical efforts actually being performed on them “below,” in order to save their lives. Many related in fullest detail and surprising accuracy about their “deaths” on the operating table, or about the car accident in which they had “been killed.” These accounts are often so vivid and replete with details that the doctors present could not understand how people dead by all medical standards could have ascertained them. All had been without a pulse, breath, and brainwave activity. This phenomenon has been given the title “Near-Death Experience” (NDE).
“I knew that I was dead,” said one woman who had “died,” “but I couldn’t do anything because no one could hear me. I went out of my body – I have no doubt about it because I saw my body lying on the operating table and I heard the doctors giving up on me. I felt awful because I didn’t want to die. Suddenly I saw a light. It was faint at first but then it grew stronger. It was an incredible light. It’s hard to explain it. It covered everything but it didn’t blind me and I could still see the operating room. When the giant light was on me – or more like it, when I was inside of it – I didn’t understand what was happening. The light asked me if I was ready to die and I had a feeling that I was speaking with a person. But it was not a person. It was the light speaking – that communicated with me. I knew that the light knew that I was not ready to die. I had a feeling that I was being tested. I felt so good. I felt safety and love. It’s hard to explain, hard to describe…”
Another witness, Suzie Hulda, describes her near-death experience in this way: “I was rushed to the hospital in the fifth month of my pregnancy because I had become very sick. The doctors were really worried and decided to perform an emergency caesarian, but I wasn’t worried at all. I think at that point I had already decided in my heart to die… I remember that a little later I lost consciousness. The next thing I knew I was looking down on my own body and people were bending over it. Afterwards I saw a circle of white light and inside of it was a blue light. I found myself drawn towards the blue light. Peace, relaxation and perfect beauty surrounded me. It was a feeling like floating. I went deep into the tunnel, where there was light at the far end. Inside, I heard a voice speaking to me: ‘Do you really think that you have done what you were supposed to do? Do you really plan on leaving your three year old son Simon alone?’ That voice repeated itself softly over and over again. I thought to myself: ‘If people really knew the true meaning of death they wouldn’t be afraid,’ for it doesn’t matter what happens to your body, since you aren’t in it anymore. You are a free consciousness filled with light. I understood that this was the moment of choice. I could have continued into the light. However, I found myself drawn back. There was some kind of noise and suddenly I found myself inside of my body again, surrounded with infusions and great disorder.”
The well-known American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, has seriously investigated the matter of near-death experiences for many years. “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that life continues after physical death,” says Ross, summarizing research of more than twenty years. “I am very skeptical at heart and this is why I tested every aspect of this phenomenon with rigor. I discovered, for example, that people who have lost limbs told of how their souls were whole again when they left their bodies. Moreover, people who were blind from birth described to me with incredible precision what the people in the room with their body were wearing – the jewelry they had on, and what they did. This is impossible! How could they have known that?”
Kubler-Ross does not feel any need or reason to convince other people of the truth of the phenomenon: “Those who are open to hear it – will hear it. And if they close their ears then they are in for a surprise.”
Perhaps the most interesting point is that Kubler-Ross actually underwent a near-death experience herself. “There is a great difference between investigating the testimonials of other people and one’s personal experience,” she says. “I jokingly say to myself that my experience was more beautiful than those of the twenty thousand cases that I investigated. Once I had been in that light and experienced that love and peace it completely changed the values and quality of my life.”
For the first time, scientists are coming to accept the possibility of life after death. But what did the Torah say about the matter thousands of years ago? We read the words of Ecclesiastes (12:1-7):
“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you shall say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’ (this is the time of old age)… before the silver cord is loosed or the golden bowl is shattered or the pitcher is broken at the fountain or the wheel broken at the cistern and the dust returns to the earth as it was and the spirit returns to the God who gave it.”
The Torah of Israel, which proceeded modern science by millennia, not only knew that there is life after death, but revealed to the Jewish people what happens to a person after death!
Amidst an endless collection of relevant Torah sources, we will cite a passage from the Oral Torah (Mishnah Avot 3:1), the last line of which touches upon our topic. Its simplicity conceals its depth: “Look upon three things lest you come to sin: Know where you come from, where you are going, and before whom you must eventually stand in judgment. Where do you come from? From a putrid drop. Where you are going? To a place of dirt, maggots and worms. Before whom you must eventually stand in judgment? Before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.”