Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose
by Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz combines journalistic reporting, scholarly biblical reading, and the probing self-examination of memoir in service of recounting his journey from skepticism to belief regarding life after death. Spitz, who teaches the philosophy of law at the University of Judaism, carefully describes traditional Jewish views of the afterlife and fearlessly explores the many challenges to those views arising in parapsychology--including near-death experiences, reincarnation, and spirit mediums. In the end, Spitz makes a cogent argument that belief in the afterlife is not, as has often been argued, incompatible with Jewish tradition. Wisely, he grounds his concluding arguments in the present-oriented ethic that guides Jewish devotion: "Our challenge is to use the time we have now to live gratefully and responsibly, knowing that how we choose to live shapes our soul," he argues. "The ability to accept death as part of life provides comfort and the awareness that each day is precious. Our challenge is to make the best of every day in this life." --Michael Joseph Gross
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From Publishers Weekly
Spitz, a Conservative rabbi, sets out to convince readers that it's kosher to be Jewish and believe in reincarnation and the afterlife. He details his personal journey from skepticism to belief in the reality of the soul, distilling along the way the work of pioneering mediums like Brian Weiss and James van Draagh. Spitz discusses one seminar he attended in which he found himself revealing images of a previous life as a Native American, and another in which his wife's deceased grandparents "communicated" with her. Spitz employs an array of Jewish sourcesAparticularly mystical textsAthat affirm a faith in the survival of the soul, although the concept remains controversial in traditional Judaism. He claims that this faith can provide comfort to those struggling with death. "Letting go is easier when one believes death is not final," he says. He offers the personal example of coping with his mother's death, followed by dramatic instances of how he has used guided imagery to ease congregants into accepting death. While we are alive, our "homework assignment" is to nurture our souls through good deeds and to express gratitude to God, "rooting us more deeply in living this life each day as a precious gift." Spitz's compelling arguments may cement the beliefs of Jewish readers already receptive to the existence of the supernatural and open a doorway for doubters to reconceptualize life and death. (Oct.)
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