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Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose

33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1580231657
ISBN-10: 1580231659
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580231659
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580231657
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Elliot Fein on March 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
It was early on a Sunday morning. My father was in Seattle, lying in a hospital bed, recovering from open-heart surgery. I was in Southern California, at the synagogue where I work, opening up the building for religious school. The sanctuary at our synagogue, when it is not being used for worship services, becomes a multipurpose room. A special family learning experience was scheduled to take place in it that morning for students and their parents.
As I opened the sanctuary doors, anger flowed through my veins when I saw that the room was not set up the way it needed to be. Did I forget to give the custodian directions on how the room needed to be set up? Or, did the custodian just mess up? I took off my jacket, loosened my tie, and began moving chairs and tables.
Sweat started dripping on my forehead. In the corner of the room, I saw my father sitting in a chair dressed in his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers. I immediately walked over to him and engaged him in a conversation, which was really an argument. For some unknown reason, I did not inquire about his health but felt the need to talk with him at that particular moment about a painful childhood memory, a memory that I was surprised to remember.
A few hours later that same morning, as I walked into my office, the phone rang. It was the baby sitter who was with our children. She said she had an emergency message, that I needed to call my brother immediately. My brother was not home. His wife answered the phone. She gave me the message. My father died that morning.
When I tell people about the conversation I had with my father that morning, they respond in one of two ways. They think I was either hallucinating or that I actually encountered my father's soul. That week, my thoughts centered on my father's condition.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Elie Spitz on May 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What Rabbi Spitz has done is to write a book in which he is not only our teacher and guide; he is also a friend and fellow traveler on the way. Moreover he has written from a place of authenticity and integrity in that the story he tells us is ultimately his story. Rabbi Spitz, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary, is a lover of the Jewish people, a compassionate pastor and a dedicated teacher. Two forces moved him to re-explore issues of immortality, afterlife, and contact with the dead. The first was a meeting with non-Jewish sources that Elie understood as a calling to re-encounter Jewish texts, too. The second was a deep listening to the needs and stories of his congregants. Listening to their stories and hearing their needs, Rabbi Spitz is moved to engage a new Jewish theology not merely as an individual seeker but as the representative and leader of his community. Once he sets himself to his task Rabbi Spitz proceeds with grace, sensitivity, courage and scholarship. Since his goal is to address the intelligent skeptic and to effectively dent the dogmas of materialism that subtly under gird the world view of so many Westerners, he begins by sharing with his reader his own uncertainty, an act of courage to be sure. He then guides the reader through the meetings and encounters that opened his heart and mind to new possibilities and in doing so invites the reader to open along with him. Importantly he understands that without providing an intensive perusal of the relevant texts his guidance would be sensitive yet profoundly lacking. He thus proceeds to share with the reader much of the wisdom and nuance of the tradition as he unfolds key aspects of the Jewish and particularly Kabbalistic reality maps as they related to issues of afterlife, reincarnation and the like.Read more ›
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Does The Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey To Belief In Afterlife, Past Lives & Living With Purpose, Rabbi Elie Spitz writes with complete candor and impressive scholarship about his belief in telepathy, near-death experiences, communications with those who have died, past life regression, and reincarnation as being within the scope and compass of Jewish tradition and teaching regarding the continuance of the soul beyond a physical death. Rabbie Spitz examines all the arguments, pro and con, regarding these issues from a thoroughly Judaic perspective. Enhanced for the reader with an appendix presenting a comprehensive view of what Torah and Jewish scholars throughout the ages have had to say regarding the immortality of the soul, Does The Soul Survive? is informative, challenging, at times controversial, but thought provoking and firmly grounded in Jewish scholarship.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Susan Theodoric on September 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Rabbi Spitz (a member of the Conservative movement's law committee, so he's no wacko) weaves a fascinating personal narrative throughout this insightful and thoughtful look at the possibility of soul survival. He shows how he has learned from his own experiences, and the experiences of his congregants and other rabbis, that there IS life after life. Not only well written, but persuasive. Most important, I think, Rabbi Spitz shows how belief in the afterlife can show us how to live more profound lives today, in the here and now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sunday VINE VOICE on May 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a shame this book has not gotten more attention, and doesn't have more reviews. Here we have an author who never spent much time even wondering if the soul survived death, because he was raised and educated not to wonder. Wondering could be dangerous...it could lead to "magical thinking". Best to stay thinking in the here and now. And this way of thinking was strongly expected of him, because he was a rabbi. Yet, there were too many "twilight zone" incidents involving those who were ill, and those who had died....

Thus, off Rabbi Spitz goes searching, exploring both Jewish teachings and more contemporary metaphysical ideas, such as those on near-death experiences, past life regressions, after-death communication and mediums. He seems to hit it off quite well with Dr. Brian Weiss, the past life regression author. That was no surprise. Both men are Jewish and highly educated...Dr. Weiss, an Ivy League trained pschiatrist...Rabbi Spitz, a Boston U. School of Law graduate; and both are highly intelligent writers, who still can easily communicate with the masses. Rabbi Spitz even trains with Dr. Weiss to do past life regressions, in his pursuit of discovering what is true and what is not. He appears to reach the conclusion that reincarnation is a reality, but that not all past life regressions are true. Even one such regression he underwent himself excited him, but left him thinking he may very well have made it up. One of the most amusing incidents in the book involved the author doing a past life regression with someone, and being instructed to bring his subject back to her current life...where he was suddenly struck with a frigtening idea: What if she didn't want to come back?

His research on mediumship proved to be highly interesting, too.
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