One topic publicized and studied above all others in the field, is the body of testimony coming from people who have experienced Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) and lived to tell their tales. Studies show that these are not rare occurrences. An article published a few years ago reports that according to a Gallop survey, no less than eight million people in the USA alone have undergone such an experience!
Those who returned to life relate that while they were out of their bodies they saw deceased relatives coming to greet them. Their life events flashed before their eyes in rapid succession, as in a movie, replete with astonishing details.
There are those who posit that NDE’s are just the result of man’s fanciful hallucinations; a collection of deeply buried memories that surface in man’s consciousness at that precise moment. According to this claim, they cannot provide any proof to the existence of an external soul. And yet, specific, documented events have taken place that undermine this rebuttal.
Testimonies exist to conversations that were held in hospital corridors between medical staff and relatives of the “deceased” person, while the body lay in an inner room — in a place where there was no feasible way for him to overhear what was being said outside. In one such incident, a blind man underwent a clinical death. Upon awakening, he described to an astonished nurse the various objects that lay around the room. When asked how, as a blind man, he could see, he replied that as soon as his soul left the body, he could see just as well as anyone. [This also proves that the power of sight is connected to the more elevated, spiritual part of man. Thus, as soon as man departs from his body, he is freed of the physical bonds that limit him].
The various studies have led noted researchers to an inevitable conclusion that man’s essence is his spiritual self. They prove that man doesn’t truly die. The body may disintegrate, but the true “I” continues to exist.
The Soul’s Departure from the Body
As has been stated already, we aren’t in need of scientific proofs nor the evidence-based approval of popular researchers. We have our own sources — sources that have been handed down over millennia — describing the remarkable structure of body and soul, soul’s immortality and the events that lie ahead of the soul after it takes leave of its body.
The Zohar states (Bereishis 218a):
“When a man departs from the world, his deceased father and relatives are already there with him, he sees them and acknowledges them, and all those who were with them in that world gather and are with him; and they continue to accompany his soul to the place where he is meant to stay.”
Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel expounds on the penultimate verse of Kohelet: “The end of the matter, everything having been heard…” (Kohelet 12;13). He says: Everything a man does in this world in his innermost chambers, will eventually be heard by everyone up in the Heavens.
Chazal state in Sifri (307): “When a person leaves the world, all his deeds are recounted before him, and he is told ‘you did this and that on this particular day, and you did this and that on that day…’.” It is like a long film detailing all his deeds throughout his life.
There is a lofty description of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai before his death (HaIdra vol.3/ Haázinu 288a):
He arranged his garments and sat down, and after revealing Torah secrets he said: ‘Here is Rav Hamnuna Saba (Rabbi Shimon’s Rebbi who had already passed away some time before) and seventy righteous men surround him.
Each of them are crowned with luminous crowns, and here, too, is Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair (who had also passed away some time before).
All his friends who sat there were shaken, and they rose and sat at the edge of the house, in awe of the deceased souls who had come to accompany Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai as he departed from this world to the next.
Testimonies abound of elderly, sick people – even simple laypeople — who were lying on their deathbeds with dwindling senses and weakened consciousness, who suddenly pointed to a point nearby and cried: “Father! Mother!” or names of other familiar loved ones. The ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ in question were no longer among the living, so why would their old, sick son call out their names?
Caretakers and relatives of terminally ill people are aware of this phenomenon but usually pay it scant attention. They brush the episode off as an outcome of the patient’s clouded consciousness and attribute the vision to his befuddled state of mind. But our Kabbalistic Masters state otherwise. They say the patient sees his parents come to greet him, and his welcoming cries are a natural reaction. There are men of stature who see their parents before their passing, and some see them after they have departed.
Adapted from ‘Man and His Universe’ by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. Coming to you soon in English