You won’t find this story in a mainstream newspaper. This case, which is identical to numerous other such stories which have been reported throughout the world, might raise the eyebrows not only of a simple person, but even the believers among us. But the details and indisputable facts, together with the witnesses, verification and proofs presented to me, dispel all doubt.
Asher (Masoud) Bitton is a well known figure to Kiryat Shemoneh citizens — both the living and the dead. He is 50 years old. He emigrated from Morocco when he was 6 years old, and lived in Beer Sheba until 1991. After that, he moved to Kiryat Shemoneh.
At the age of 13, he began to work in the Beer Sheba Chevra Kadisha (funeral association), and since then, this is his profession which he loves and executes with unflagging devotion. It’s a little strange for a thirteen year old to dig graves, and take part in memorial ceremonies for Israel’s fallen and other scenes unusual even to adults, but “I was a super strong child, so I didn’t mind helping out wherever I could. In those years, I learned the Chevra Kadisha’s ‘system and software’,” he says, half-joking.
When he moved to the north, he began to study in a kollel (married scholars’ religious study program) while continuing to work in the Chevra Kadisha. He ledazkarot (memorial ceremony held on the anniversary of a person’s passing), dug graves, washed bodies, and recited Psalms over those who had died. Many can testify that he did these acts of kindness without any intent of profit or honor, just out of love and happiness to help. If you want to know, for each assignment he was given, which was assumed to take about 3 hours, he received 500 shekels. In reality, though, he often worked 10 and 12 hours a day, he had to attend funerals that began at 2:00 a.m., and he did many other virtuous deeds. He naturally did it for the sake of heaven.
Kiryat Shemoneh citizens knew Asher from visits to the cemetery and azkarot. Those who knew him from up close, however, knew him as a simple, humble, and modest person who smiles to everyone and always radiates optimism. His story, which everyone was whispering about in the last months, shook up many citizens in the north. They have been following his story with concern, had supported him and prayed for his well-being.
Give Him Another Electric Shock, He’ll Come Back to Life
“No one knows what the next day will bring, ” Asher begins his account.
On one balmy day in December 2008, he felt something strange happening in his body. He sensed something was about to happen. He immediately traveled to the graves of his parents, and asked them for forgiveness if he offended them during their lifetimes.
“I knew that something was going to happen to me. I had a bad feeling,” he says, breathing heavily.
“That day I went as usual to the cemetery. At 10:30 a.m., I felt strong pains in my chest. I told Machlouf Ochana, my cousin, that I have strong chest pains. Then my left arm felt very heavy and I wasn’t able to lift it. When Machlouf saw that, he took me to the the local clinic. When we arrived, he went to take care of something, and asked a mutual friend to accompany me instead. The friend brought me to the elevator and then left. I entered the elevator and then suddenly everything went dark. It was like I had become blind. Darkness. I couldn’t see a thing. The elevator went up and down twice, but I couldn’t see a thing. On the third time, one of the employees pulled me out of the elevator. I told her that I can’t see, I’m very dizzy, and almost can’t breathe.
“They immediately brought me to a doctor who saw my blood pressure was very high. They did an E.K.G. and discovered I had had a heart attack. While they were treating me, Machlouf arrived, and suddenly I had a bad attack of dizziness. I began to cry and told Machlouf, ‘That’s it, I’m dying. (he cries) At that very moment, I experienced cardiac arrest. They immediately called Magen David Adam. At that point,” Asher retells, his soul left his body and floated two meters above it. He saw everyone and heard everyone since he was still in the room, his soul floating above his body. His body was unconscious, lying on a bed. Dr. Boris Sidlikovsky began to treat him. He realized that the only thing that might stabilize his heart was an electric shock. After five shocks, Dr. Boris tried one more time, a sixth time. He then declared that there was nothing else to do. “Asher is dead.”
Asher’s many friends slowly gathered in Magen David Adom, after hearing what had happened to him. He was still floating two meters above his body, watching everything going on below. “I saw the mayor of the city, Rabbi Nissim Malkah, crying, together with a few of my friends,” he relates.
Did you feel the electric shocks?
“I felt a tremor going through my body. It was an awful feeling.”
The doctors gave up. Rabbi Nissim Malkah called Rabbi Amram Ifergan, the brother of the “Rentagen”, and told him in detail what had happened to Asher. Rabbi Ifergan asked them to give him another electric shock, and said he would wake up after that.
The doctors had already given up and gave no chance that Asher would return to life. The way they saw it, he was finished. After Rabbi Nissim talked with Rabbi Ifergan, he pressed Dr. Sidlikovsky to give another electric shock to Asher’s body, despite having pronounced him dead. The doctor acquiesced, and on the seventh shock — to everyone’s amazement — Asher returned to life and his heart began beating.
“After the extra electric shock, the doctors shouted in joy that the pulse had returned. Then they carried me into an intensive care ambulance. After that, I left This World and spent approximately 45 minutes in the Afterlife.”
“I Felt Humiliated and Ashamed”
At this stage, Bitton relates, he had left Kiryat Shemoneh, Israel, and This World, and his soul had entered the World of Truth.
How did your soul get there? Did it float there?
I felt a very strong wind pulling me into a small tunnel, which grew wider and wider. I felt a special kind of air that I had never experienced before. It’s impossible to describe it in physical terms. Then I saw a light that gradually became larger and blinding. An infinite light of all kinds of colors. Suddenly I saw four figures dressed in black, who grabbed ahold of my arms, two on each side.
How did they appear?
“Their eyes were blazing fire — real fire. Suddenly they called my name ‘Masoud Bitton!’ Three times they announced it, and told me to appear before the court of justice. On the way there, I saw many figures dressed in black.”
Here, Asher began describing terrifying scenes and figures that we have read about in the Gemora and the books of the sages that deal with the Afterlife.
“Did you have a body there? A face?
“I had nothing. I felt I was in space. Like a baby sheep among them. As they say, can a small sheep overcome 70 wolves? That’s how I felt. When I arrived before the court, those black figures looked at me cruelly, and shouted at me, ‘Evil, evil! Look what you did!’ (He begins to cry.) I couldn’t answer. I wasn’t allowed to speak. Then they began to pull out my files. I saw the same figures with black clothes trying to pull me to them. I was overwhelmed with shame.”
Who were those people or figures?
They were angels of destruction. All of them had beards and their eyes were blazing fire. They had a cruel expression on their faces. They showed all the sins I had ever done. I felt ashamed, totally humiliated. I suddenly understood the phrase ‘Woe to us on the day of judgment.’”
Asher than recounted how 4 children, dressed in white and having wings, surrounded him. “They defended me, and asked me to approach the court. They claimed that I can’t be judged for hell, without first hearing the commandments I had done. Then we went down to another world, which was very similar to This World. We came to Kiryat Shemoneh’s military cemetery, and we saw 5 long lines of Israeli Defense Forces’ soldiers, all of whom I had known. I also saw many more soldiers, who I can’t even talk about, since they are lofty righteous people. All of them wore white clothes as if they were in the Israeli navy. When they saw me, I heard them shouting, ‘Masoud arrived!’ They were all excited. From there we went up to the court.”
What does the court look like?
“There were 71 rabbinical judges. Their faces shined with an infinite light. They were stunningly beautiful.”
Do you know who those judges were?
“I knew four of them. Two of them were still alive, may they be healthy. Two of them, from the previous generation, has passed away.”
Do you mean rabbis from our generation, like Rabbi Ovadya Yosef?
“I am not allowed to say.”
Asher relates that his trial in court was carried out just as the sages tell us: a scales was brought in on which all his merits were piled up on one side, and all his sins on the other side. They weighed which side was heavier. Had he done more good deeds or sins? This happened after they had immersed him in a mikvah of pure water in the World Above. His description of what happened to him, without a doubt, was not very pleasant, but since the reality is that there is reward and punishment, a person has to pay off his debts.
In the next installment, Asher Bitton talks about the seriousness of speaking in a synagogue, and Kiryat Shemoneh mayor Nissim Malka and Dr. Boris Sidlikovsky talks about what happened to him from their point of view.