Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Comments on Life After Death

Yesterday, I posted an excellent article by Sara Yoheved Rigler from Aish.com about Proof of Heaven and a comparison of this world to the world we experience after death.

This article reiterates themes that I have been covering for the past 13 months on this blog.  Since I have received thousands of comments from readers around the world (151 countries as of today), I thought I would emphasize some of the points made in this article and especially to stress what it means to every living person on this planet.

First of all, I wish to stress the important work of Dr. Eban Alexander.  I received comments when I discussed the subject of Out of Body and Near death experiences Near Death Experience 25 April 2012, that let me know that there is much skepticism about its validity.  We human beings tend to explain away anything with which we are uncomfortable, but I found that those who had not looked into the subject in depth and only had an opinion (a gut feeling, so to speak) were the ones who were skeptical.  Those who reviewed the subject in depth or even had such an experience (or as in my case having met individual who had the experience), became convinced that it is the absolute truth.  Since I have seen estimates of about 30 million people who claim to have experienced such a phenomenon, I can tell you we are not talking a random account.  The more important fact that comes out of the large number of individuals who had such an event is the total consistency of what they actually experienced.  They come back with the same details about what they saw, who they met and, even what was the purpose of their experience.  There are books written on the subject for those of you wanting much more detail.  The statement that had the biggest impact on me of the individuals that I personally met and interviewed was: “Leaving the body took them to a reality that was far more real than this world.”  In other word, this world of allusion is like a dream state and the heavenly realm is what is real.  This life serves only as the corridor (as it says in the article from Pirkei Avos – Ethics of the Fathers) for the purpose of preparation, setting ourselves up with the real life for eternity.  It is a very difficult concept for us free-will human beings with our flawed logic to accept, but once we realize the truth (that Hashem has given us), we can use it to setup the best eternal life for ourselves and our loved ones forever and ever.

I have been saying this repeatedly for the past 13 months: this world is for the purpose of perfecting ourselves to maximize the life that we will experience forever and ever.  All the trivia that we enjoy in this world is part of the testing system that gives us this level of perfection.  It is imperative to follow the instructions of our handbook of life (the Torah).  It is essential to realize that the absolute best way to succeed is by following the instructions we received from Hashem, the Owner of the Universe, the Creator of us all and the only One Who knows what is best for us.  It is our purpose in this world and all else is futile.
I know I repeat myself, I repeat myself.  Why am I so adamant about helping everyone do the right thing?  I know that time is running out and what we do as individuals over the coming days and weeks (I don’t believe too much longer), is vital to the results of our final report card – our eternal life.  Yes, we are taking finals for this course called “life;” and, the cramming that we do in these final days will bless us or curse us forever and ever.

I still have individuals who write to me saying that they don’t buy what I am saying (actually what the Torah is saying) and continue to say: “we will see what happens and who was correct.”  I call these individuals “gamblers” who will find out the hard way what losers they will be; and, how they will kick themselves forever and ever.  Almost invariably these individuals talk about subjects that I have already covered.  They make it obvious that they haven’t read my blog to any extent, but would prefer to tell me their opinion of what the truth is.  An individual who has not studied Jewish scriptures is an uninformed individual.  Their tanks are running on empty; but, they still try to continue on the road of life.  When they come to a complete stop and wonder what is wrong, they will see how little studying would have taken them a long way.  Instead they live a life of fantasy with no answers and, even worse, not a happy future.

Like Out of Body and Near death experiences, if you don’t look at the facts and, as a result, draw your own incorrect conclusions, then you may feel temporarily satisfied.  The fact is whatever an individual concludes as the truth, if it isn’t correct, the absolute truth does not go away.  In fact it will haunt that person for eternity.  How do I know that Hashem’s instructions will give us happiness and a totally successful eternity?  Two answers.  One is that all that has happened throughout history, all events, can be found in scriptures with excruciating detail.  In other words, the track record of the past 2, 3, 4, 5 thousand years was so accurate that we can take it for absolute truth.  What has happened, is happening in the world today and will happen in the near future is recorded accurately in scriptures.  There is no mystery about what Hashem has told us; but, more importantly, all the instructions that He gave us can be relied upon as a guarantee for our successful future.  The other answer is that I am a people watcher.  I have been observing 10’s of thousands of individuals for more than a half century (including everything that has happened in my life), and can report without any doubt that what the Torah tells us including the instructions for success, are totally valid.  It works!!!!!  The gambler that I mentioned above is merely an individual who did not observe the absolute truth and what it means to us, and therefore, is poised to throw it all away – partially out of laziness, partially out of stubbornness, but mostly out of ignorance.  Why do we argue with success?

We are all, measure for measure, on our own.  Whatever actions we decide to do will result in a positive or negative reaction, but everything is important and recorded.  The results are presented to us at the time of judgment (when we received our final report card), and we are shown what our “forever and ever” will entail.   Now is the time to do the right thing and reserve our place of joy and happiness for all eternity.  Drawing oneself closer to Hashem forever is a level of joy beyond comprehension for us human beings.  There is no way to describe it but, I guarantee, the gambler who doesn’t believe it will suffer forever.  Don’t gamble with your life; nor, should you gamble with the lives of your loved ones – everyone who depends upon you for guidance.    Now is the time and time is running out.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Life After Death

Jewish perspectives on the bestseller Proof of Heaven.

Dr. Eban Alexander is an academic neurosurgeon whose credentials include 15 years teaching at Harvard Medical School. He did not believe in spiritual concepts such as the soul, the afterlife, and supernatural phenomena. As he writes in his best-selling book Proof of Heaven:

Like many other scientific skeptics, I refused to even review the data relevant to the questions concerning these phenomena. I prejudged the data, and those providing it, because my limited perspective failed to provide the foggiest notion of how such things might actually happen.

Then, at age 54, Dr. Alexander suffered a virulent attack of bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis first attacks the brain’s cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, language, emotion, visual and auditory awareness, and logic. For seven days, Dr. Alexander lay in a coma, totally unresponsive. Then, just as his doctors (who were also his colleagues) were about to pull the plug, he regained consciousness, and gradually made a full recovery.

Recovered, he was eager to recount his vivid experiences of spiritual worlds while he was in the comatose state. Although he had previously heard of Near Death Experiences (NDE), Dr. Alexander, as a neuroscientist, dismissed those accounts as hallucinations generated by the brain, because most NDEs are experienced by patients during cardiac arrest, when the heart stops but the brain is still functioning. In his own case, however, he points out that his cortex, the only scientifically plausible source of such detailed, richly interactive perceptions, was not functioning at all.

Proof of Heaven has been on the New York Times bestseller list for the last 23 weeks. Last week it was #1. The book and its author have become a much-touted cultural phenomenon. He has been interviewed by Oprah, Joy Behar, “Good Morning, America,” and a host of other TV and radio shows.

Many prominent scientists have attacked the book, claiming that Dr. Alexander’s cerebral cortex was not in fact “shut down,” or that what he experienced came during the short interval when his cortex was waking up, or that his “hallucinations” came from chemicals produced by the meningitis itself, etc.

I am certainly not qualified to weigh the scientific evidence for or against Dr. Alexander’s claims. Yet, without giving credence to the veracity of his account, the subjects he raises—the persistence of consciousness after the death of the physical body, the existence of other realms that dwarf this physical world, and the place that evil and free will play in the cosmos—are subjects that Judaism has been elucidating for over 3,000 years.

With the world still reeling from the deaths of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, the massive explosion in Texas, and the earthquake in China, it’s an apt time to take a look at what Judaism says about life after death.

Will the Real World Please Stand Up
Dr. Alexander’s account describes three distinct realms. The third and “highest” of them is what he calls the “Core,” where he claims to have experienced the presence of the Divine:

I continued moving forward and found myself entering an immense void, completely dark, infinite in size, yet also infinitely comforting. Pitch black as it was, it was also brimming over with light. …

Judaism explains that there are many worlds or dimensions. The world we know, referred to in Judaism as “This World,” is the lowest of all the worlds. The upper worlds are entirely spiritual. Only in This World has energy coalesced into dense physical matter. Time and space operate only in This World.

In the Talmud, there are numerous accounts of souls ascending to Olam Haba, the Next World. In one account [Pesachim 50a] Rabbi Yosef the son of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi died, and then came back to life. He described what he had seen there, and his father, a great sage, verified its accuracy. In other Talmudic accounts, a sage, through some kind of meditative process, was able to access higher worlds and return to his body, having nothing to do with death.

Dr. Alexander repeatedly uses the words “vast” and “infinite” to describe “the Core.” Judaism explains that the higher worlds are indeed infinite in scope. Compared to the Next World, This World is puny. As Ethics of the Fathers, going back two millennia, proclaimed, “This World is like a corridor leading to the Next World.”

“Corridor” has two implications. The first is size. The corridor that leads into a building is always much smaller than the building itself. To get some idea of the puniness of this world compared to the higher worlds, imagine a skyscraper 200 stories high. Now imagine that the lobby on the ground floor has marble flooring, a half-inch (1 cm.) thick. That marble flooring is comparable to the dimensions of This World, a thin, dense veneer on the underside of the cosmos.

“Corridor” also implies purpose. The corridor has one purpose: to lead a person into the actual building. This World, small as it is, has a crucial purpose: to lead human beings into the Next World. As Ethics of the Fathers continues the verse cited above: “Fix yourself up in the corridor, in order that you may enter the banquet hall.” Although the corridor is only an entranceway into the banquet hall, it is the only entranceway into the banquet hall. Only by rectifying oneself in This World by exercising one’s free will, can a human being enter the Next World, as will be explained below.

(Although the higher worlds include many dimensions, for our purposes we will discuss only “the Next World,” that realm where souls go after the death of the body.)

The defining characteristic of This World is that G-d is hidden here.

Judaism calls the Next World, “the World of Truth.” This World is the realm of falsehood and illusion, because G-d seems to be absent and Divine Unity is hidden behind a veil of multiplicity. The Hebrew word for “world,” – olam – shares a root with the Hebrew word for “hidden.” The defining characteristic of This World is that G-d is hidden here.

The Jackpot
This World has one (and only one!) advantage over the other worlds: This is the only world where the soul can change, grow, and elevate itself. Life in this world is like winning the Supermarket Jackpot. You get 20 minutes and all you can grab. You run up and down the aisles, tossing into your cart all the premium items you can snatch. But when the bell rings, it’s over. Woe to the one who has only a half-full cart of day-old bread!

A fundamental tenet of Judaism is that human beings have free choice in the moral sphere. While our preferences and proclivities are determined by heredity and environment, the choice between right and wrong, good and evil is ours. Every time we chose honesty over cheating, generosity over selfishness or faithfulness over betrayal, we refine ourselves. By consistently choosing good over evil, we make ourselves into the refined beings who can enjoy the Light of the Divine Presence in the World of Truth.
The Next World is wholly spiritual. It is not an all-you-can-eat brunch.

The Next World is wholly spiritual with no trace of physicality. It is not an all-you-can-eat brunch. This is a crucial point. If a person devotes this life to acquiring material and sensory pleasures, will he consider an eternity spent in the Next World, devoid of IPads, movies, luxury cars, gourmet food, vintage wines, and sensory stimulation, as heaven or hell? Imagine a person whose musical appreciation is limited to hard rock being “treated” to a four-hour concert of classical music, and you will understand why one’s choices in This World determine one’s ability to enjoy the Next World. Your moral choices in This World determine how you will experience the World to Come.

Free will can exist in This World only if God masks His presence. If the teacher is standing over you throughout the exam, you do not have free choice whether to cheat or be honest. Only when the teacher leaves the room, does your free will kick in. This World is nothing but an examination hall. That is why G-d must seem to be absent.

Dr. Alexander describes it this way:

I saw the earth as a pale blue dot in the immense blackness of physical space. I could see that earth was a place where good and evil mixed, and that this constituted one of its unique features. Even on earth there is much more good than evil, but earth is a place where evil is allowed to gain influence in a way that would be entirely impossible at higher levels of existence. That evil could occasionally have the upper hand was known and allowed by the Creator as a necessary consequence of giving the gift of free will to beings like us.

…Free will is of central importance for our function in the earthly realm: a function that, we will all one day discover, serves the much higher role of allowing our ascendance in the timeless alternate dimension.

The moment after death, we have nothing but who we made ourselves into by our choices. Jewish lore is full of stories of the “heavenly tribunal.” This refers to the accounting that every soul undergoes as it reviews all of its choices during its lifetime. The “fires of Hell” are the burning regrets that the soul feels when, from its supernal vantage point in the World of Truth, it recognizes the growth opportunities it failed to grasp and the wrong choices it made. After leaving the body, it is too late to change.

The Boston Marathon Bombing
These spiritual truths are not mere theological constructs. They are a framework for understanding some aspects of the tragedy of the Boston Marathon.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the terrorists who killed and maimed dozens of innocent civilians, are accountable for their choices. Law enforcement authorities, based on preliminary investigations, are calling the brothers “self-radicalized jihadists.” The term is apt; the choice to move toward evil, to digest hate literature, to expose oneself to a despotic ideology, to apostle oneself to hate-mongers, to adopt a creed of cruelty, and to inflict injury on others, comes from the self. Animals kill by instinct. Only human beings can choose cruelty.

Many people are perplexed by the younger brother Dzhokhar. The older terrorist Tamerlan fits our stereotype of a potential terrorist; he purportedly had no friends and was once arrested for beating up his girlfriend. He is now suspected of having slit the throats of his Jewish boxing partner and two other Jewish men in 2011. Dzhokhar, on the other hand, had many friends, who described him as a typical, nice college kid. One photo of him looks angelic. It’s hard to reconcile his evil deeds with his “nice guy” persona.

Ordinary human beings, like you or me, can choose between heroic good and despicable evil.

This recalls Hannah Arendt’s treatise on The Banality of Evil. Ms. Arendt was a journalist who covered the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews. She expected to see a fiend spouting nefarious, hated-filled invectives. To her emotional discomfort, she found in Eichmann a bland bureaucrat, more banal than bestial.

This is the point of Judaism’s teaching of “free choice.” Ordinary human beings, like you or me, can choose between heroic good and despicable evil. Of course, extreme choices are not made in a single leap. Every time you give up your own pleasure to help someone or admit the truth at the cost of your ego, you move toward good. Every time you justify hurting someone or tell self-protective lies, you move toward evil. You create yourself by your daily small choices. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could have chosen to reject his older brother’s evil rather than embrace it.

This brings us to perhaps the most wrenching loss of the Boston bombings, the death of 8-year-old Martin Richard. By all accounts, he was a child with outstanding personal attributes. He emblazoned his values on a sign: “NO MORE HURTING PEOPLE.” Our hearts go out to Martin’s family and friends in their acute suffering.

At the same time, if we understand the reality of the higher worlds, we know that the soul of Martin Richard is alive and well there, enjoying the bliss of G-d’s manifest presence. Judaism mourns death because it cuts short the opportunity to fix oneself in This World. Some souls, however, have very little to fix. There is no need for them to dally in the corridor.

Sara Yoheved Rigler will be giving lectures and workshops in the NY/NJ area May 18-20. For her full schedule, see www.sararigler.com.

I thank Aish.com for this excellent article and especially Sara Yoheved Rigler, whose very knowledgable presentations I have been reading and admiring for years.

Tomorrow, B”N, I would like to comment on this presentation and stress how important the subject is to everyone in this world. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rav Nir Ben Artzi

I received this information the other day of a Shiur given by Rav Nir Ben Artzi.  It was interpreted by an anonymous source who did not give a name.  I thank the individual for giving us this very vital information from Rav Ben Artzi.  (Comments in parenthesis are from me):

Summary of Shiur by Rav Nir Ben Artzi
17.4.2013 RBS Nachli Tefila

In the future, Jerusalem will encompass all of the current land of Eretz Yisroel. And, the rest of the earth will be the new Eretz Yisroel (all the land of the world will be called the Holy Land).  Jews are in chutz l’aretz - outside of Israel - only because of money.

Israel is the safest and most protected place to be (if you don't believe that, Google the statistics and be amazed at how safe Israel is today).  We hear that many Jews are being thrown out of the homes and communities in many countries -- Hashem is destroying all of the world because of money issues, so that Jews will finally come to Israel.  Moses was 1/2 man and 1/2 angel. Moshiach will be the same.  All Jews will also be half each.  In the future, Jews will no longer have a yetzer hara (evil inclination) and will be angels in human bodies.  Jews have a Neshama - a part of Hashem.  With Moshiach, there will no longer be death for Jews.

Jews, when mad, the yetzer hara can be seen in their eyes.  When you act from the yetzer tov - there are no arguments.  In holiness there are no arguments.  In tahara (purity) there are no arguments.  According to the Torah, it is forbidden to take revenge on your fellow Jew.  People think that being Shomer Shabbos is not using electricity, driving, working, etc.  It's that but more. It's also how and what you speak about.  The speech of a Jew creates. If a Jew doesn't observe Shabbos with his speech, he is then presented with things that will bother him on the next Shabbos.  Be happy, sing, learn and speak properly. Then, your next Shabbos will bring good things.  Each Shabbos you do this with proper speech, more good will come to you.  Honor your parents - It's not about honoring them to get an inheritance.  Often after parents are niftar (deceased), the children argue about the inheritance and there is no peace of benefit. When one honors parents with all our heart, one's health will be good, so that one can take good care of their parents.  Honoring parents brings longer lives for self, one's spouse and one's children too. 

Hashem will continue to destroy Iran. He will finish Syria - both sides (Government and opposition).  Hashem is causing Hezballah, PA, Hamas, etc. to argue among themselves.  Jordan will soon fall - the king's leadership will fall.  Hashem is doing all this for the good of Israel.  Hezballah, Iran, etc., have thousands of rockets.  Hashem will not allow them to hurt Israel.  Hashem will finish Syria.

The enemies around us will eat up each other.  There is tension in the air.  This tension is so that Jews will do Teshuvah.  Hamas is training terrorists to attack Israel.  They will not succeed.  Iran will have more and more earthquakes.  The IDF will not need to send planes to Iran.  Iran will be stopped by natural causes - disasters.  Hashem can do it all.  Everything is His doing.  Hashem rules everything. Fish, bugs, the sun, everything; Hashem provides food to all.  We do not have enough understanding or ability to understand what Hashem can do.

Other countries make noises, threats; but, they will not succeed.  Hashem wants us to be concerned so that we will do Teshuvah, chesed, have ahavat chinam, not to hurt each other.

Hashem sees all of what we do.  And, we get back (measure for measure) for it. Good or bad, deeds on our part, affect what comes back to us.  Hashem spread the Jews around the world.  He will also bring them back.  The Yetzer Hara bothers the people and influences us.  Unlike others, Jews tremble and regret when they do wrong.  Soon more floods, winds and other natural events will be seen around the world.

In France, anti-Semitism will grow.  Thousands of Jews are being attacked in various countries and the police participate or don't stop it.  These things are not publicized.  Galut (exile) is ending.  Be patient.  Each week, the pace increases.  Anti-Semitism is for the good of the Jews – to get them to wake up and come to Israel and to Hashem and away from materialism.  America is falling and will throw out Jews or cause them to leave.  When we have money and materialism, people aren't close to Hashem.  When things are hard, they come to Hashem.  They found gas in the Mediterranean. They will find oil too.  Great treasures will be found in Israel.  All problems that a Jew has – parnassa (livelihood), ailments, etc, all comes from Hashem; and, is for our good.  We need emunah (faith) to believe in Hashem.  All things come from Hashem.  If we don't get a job, it may be because it would have been life-threatening to us.  We don't know.  Hashem does it all for our good.  Backaches, foot pains, other pains…  Check one's deeds and see what he is doing – good or bad.

If a person is late because of traffic, it could be to protect him from some danger, e.g. a car accident.  Thank Hashem for everything.  Everything is hashgacha (devine action from) Hashem. So that Jews will return to him.  Daven 3 times a day.  All will be good for Israel.  Don't feat our new government.  Angles are working with the leaders of Israel.  This generation of leaders is made up of robots, led by Hashem and angels.  It doesn't matter who they are.  This is the last generation before Geula.  We must unite.  Work for Shalom Bayit (peace in the home).  Follow the 10 Commandments (actually, 613 for Jews and 7 for non-Jews).  Hashem will protect us.  There will be big tests (both on an individual basis as well as on a national level for each nation).  We will be protected.


One last comment from me is that the above information is very much in concert with the prophecies of scriptures.  Rav Ben Artzi is not making things up nor is he voicing an opinion.  The big difference is that the prophecies tell us “what” and Rav Ben Artzi is hinting to “when” – now.  These comments become obvious when you look at what is happening in the world and compare it to what scriptures has said for thousands of years of what will happen in the end of days.  The most important message is “what does it mean to me as an individual; and, what are my obligations to make sure that I and my family survive and even thrive in these days of turmoil and uncertainty?”  The answer to these questions is what I have been blogging for the past 13 months.  If you are not sure of the answers, go back and re-read.  I believe that we are much closer to the time of Geula than meets the eye.  That is not based on gut feeling, but on some very significant evidence.  I am a retired Engineer who looks for empirical data and not generalities.  I will not say anything further except that when it happens in the near future, I will explain why.  Meanwhile each of you knows exactly what you have to do to thrive and acquire for yourself and loved ones the best eternity possible.  If you are following the ways of Hashem and doing His mitzvot, keep up the good work.  If you are not, consider yourself a gambler who will lose big-time.  Time is running out – it’s your choice.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Inspiration For All

Watch the renowned Rabbi Paysach Krohn speak in this inspirational video.

Inspiration For All

This is the answer to all the problems of the world.  Not a political solution, not a military solution, not any other solution.  This is sponsored by the Oorah foundation, an organization that I have supported for many years.  I thank Hashem for such an organization and ask you also to be inspired by their work and that you help in their vital efforts.