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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meaningful Book on the Subject of the Afterlife
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...
Published on March 9, 2004 by Elliot Fein

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just ok
It ok but not enough
It' poor in the content but give a general idea that will have to continue research
Published 15 months ago by marina Ergas


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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meaningful Book on the Subject of the Afterlife, March 9, 2004
By 
Elliot Fein (Trabuco Canyon, California) - See all my reviews
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. The combination of mental exhaustion (from worrying about him,) physical tiredness (from being up early in the morning,) and anger (at the room not being set up correctly,) led my mind to imagine a mystical encounter.
On the other hand, there is an idea of Gehenna (Hebrew for "hell") in Jewish tradition. Unlike the Christian notion of eternal damnation, Gehenna is only a temporary state. At death, the soul departs from the body and goes to Gehenna, a process of purification where the individual confronts his or her sins and atones for them. After this real Yom Kippur, the soul then either returns from Gehenna to the world in another life (reincarnation) or goes to heaven to be with the Divine. Perhaps our encounter that morning had something to do with this mystery.
Since this experience, I have engaged in many conversations about the afterlife. I have become open, in these discussions, to the possible belief that our souls are eternal, that our souls existed in a previous life, and that our souls will be transferred into another life after we die.
Elie Spitz, the spiritual leader at Congregation B'nai Israel in Tustin, California in his new book Does the Soul Survivie? A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives, and Living with Purpose agrees with this possibility. He recognizes, as a practicing pulpit rabbi, the potential comfort that belief in the afterlife and past lives can provide. He feels, in his heart and mind, that this belief is true.
Throughout the book, Spits searches Jewish tradition for evidence about the eternity of the soul. He interprets the possible existence of the soul's eternity in various Biblical texts and analyzes the type of afterlife and previous life existence of the soul that is presented in various rabbinic and other post-biblical literary sources. He also shares personal experiences that validate to him this existence.
To find evidence that a soul could have a previous life, Spitz meets with Dr. Brian Weiss, a Columbia University and Yale Medical School graduate who is chairman of the Psychiatry Department at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami and author of the book, Many Lives, Many Masters. Weiss has become famous using therapeutic techniques of hypnosis to get individuals to speak foreign languages that they have never learned, to describe areas of the world that they have never visited, and to share personal accounts of previous time periods that historians later believe are authentic.
Weiss's evidence is not only documented in his research, but observed and experienced first hand by Spitz. Spitz, in recollecting about various life experiences and through hypnosis conducted on himself, comes to the belief that his own soul occupied a previous life. The detail in which he can describe that previous life, and how that previous life influences his existence today, is persuasive.
The evidence that Spitz shares about the afterlife is equally persuasive. In gathering this evidence, the author and his wife encounter James Van Praagh, a psychic and best selling author who's works as a medium communicating with the souls of the departed goes well beyond the realm of mere coincidence.
In the ending of the book, Spitz shares how his belief in the afterlife has benefited him as a pulpit rabbi. He shares a first hand account of how he was able to comfort, in a hospice situation, both a congregational member before she breathed her last breath and her loved ones who observed that last breath. Without a belief in life beyond this world, he would never have possessed the resources at that moment to console.
"Faith," Spitz writes, "in the survival of the soul might lead to magical thinking, the belief in an ability to defy reality and an unrealistic holding on to departed loved ones. But when responsibly approached, faith in the survival of the soul can also be an important source of affirmation and comfort. Like love, such faith is dangerous but no less real."
In Does the Soul Survive, Spitz does a masterful job demonstrating how this subject can be approached in a responsible manner and how affirmation and comfort can be extracted from that approach.
Elliot Fein teaches Jewish Religious Studies at the Tarbut V'Torah School in Irvine, California.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authenticity and integrity, May 9, 2001
By 
Elie Spitz (Tustin, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose (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. Given the goals of the book and the personal spiritual odyssey that it unfolds for the reader I could not help but be disappointed and even saddened by an earlier, condescending Amazon review. Thankfully the reading public is more perceptive than the reviewer with an ax to grind. Indeed many thousands of seekers have found the wisdom and gentle guidance of Reb Elie's book to be both challenging and ultimately transformative. This reviewer can only conclude with two prayers. One, that we learn to engage in sacred conversation with passion and even sharp disagreement but without triumphalism and virulence. And that contemporary skeptic teachers like Reb Elie continue to serve as a model for the willingness to explore and redraw old reality maps, particularly when those maps no longer quench the deepest yearnings of the soul
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written with complete candor and impressive scholarship, January 10, 2001
This review is from: Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and Insightful!, September 24, 2000
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This review is from: Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose (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
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing & Insightful Search For The Survival Of The Soul...., May 8, 2009
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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. The medium he investigated was none other than the famous James Van Praag. His conclusions after a group meeting with Van Praag? There was no way Van Praag could have known what he knew about Rabbi Spitz's wife's family, except by some paranormal skill or contact with the deceased. He also told Rabbi Spitz's wife, a physician, a mundane thing that recently happened, concerning a band-aid, that there was no rational way to explain how he knew such a thing.

Not that Rabbi Spitz becomes a New Age junkie or anything...au contraire, he obviously still sees the dangers of "magical thinking" all the way through the book. But he also sees the "proof" that maybe indeed the soul survives death...and maybe knowing that helps many, many people live in a less frightened and more hopeful manner. I personally wonder if he saw how reading and studying metaphysical topics makes organized religion seem way less interesting in many ways. I know myself, that after I started reading metaphysical books...NDEs, reincarnation, ADCs and angels, mediums...that I could no longer go back to reading traditional books on religion, could no longer go back to reading the Bible very much...all those books and writings began to seem like nothing but dead weight. This is not something a Rabbi would want to happen. I wonder if he saw that might happen?

Whatever he saw or did not see, he put together a very well written, intelligent book. And if you're not Jewish, and still picture rabbis like the ones in "The Chosen" and "Fiddler on the Roof", do look at Rabbi Spitz's picture on the inside of the back flap before reading the book. You may be pleasantly surprised. :)
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Couldn't put it down!!, December 14, 2000
This review is from: Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose (Hardcover)
I have begun to get interested in the afterlife, after reading some of Sylvia Brown's books. Since I was Jewish, I wanted to really know if the soul survives death. This book is a must-read for any person who is intrigued by the possiblity of life after death. I found many of the things said in the book correlated with the ideas of Sylvia Brown and Gary Zukov. The author delved deeply into the many facets of afterlife, and includes his own personal experiences, which are really interesting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a thought-provoking analysis of the proofs for life after death, December 26, 2010
Rabbi Spitz bases his conviction that life continues after death upon nine phenomena; (1) his belief that there is a soul; (2) mental telepathy; people sensing what they can't hear or see, such as a person sensing that a relative thousands of miles away suddenly became ill; (3) communications from dead relatives, as when a father appears in a son's dream and tells him that he just died; (4) biblical statements that other people see as metaphors, but which the rabbi takes literally, such as "he was gathered to his people," which he understands as a departure to "the world to come"; (5) reincarnation, as when a person said that he would like to return to earth as a butterfly, and a butterfly is seen flying around the rabbi's head at the man's funeral; (6) mediums delivering communications from the dead; (7) the ability of people under hypnosis to recall past lives that they say they lived; (8) the existence of many mystics who insisted that there is life after death and who say that they went through some of the above-mentioned experiences; and most of all (9) "near death experiences." The book is written well, is interesting, and worth reading, but not everyone will find it persuasive. The following are some thoughts on each of his proofs.

The belief in the existence of a soul is very widespread, but science has been unable to prove that a soul exists. Philosophers have questioned how it is possible for an inanimate soul to control a body when the two have no physical connection. While ancient post-biblical Greeks mention the soul, many, such as Aristotle (384-322 BCE) understood soul as a synonym for life forces. Thus Aristotle included the digestive and respiratory systems and intelligence in the term soul. He wrote that only the intellect exists after death, not the person's personality. Furthermore, the notion of the existence of a soul is not in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew term used today for soul, nefesh, means "life" or "person" in the Torah, such as when it states "When a nefesh offers a sacrifice." Rabbi Spitz admits that "any attempt to define soul in clear, unequivocal terms results either in distortion of glibness,"

True, people claim that telepathy works. However, many scientists say that these are coincidences. Additionally, even if telepathy works, such as being able to identify what number is written on a covered card, this ability really has nothing to do with life after death.

Similarly, scientist call claims of having had communications with a dead person, such as in a dream, coincidences. We also know that dreams are prompted by thoughts during the day, and the dreamer may have been thinking during the day about the physical condition of the person who appeared in his or her dream.

Just as the Torah does not mention "soul," it does not speak of life after death. However, the rabbi reads it into metaphors such as "gathered to his people." He is most likely the first person who read these words in this literal manner. The words have always been understood as a poetic way of saying "he died." It is similar to the English phrase "he passed on."

There is no proof that resurrection occurs. The rabbi rejects the notion that the soul returns to the individual's dead body since the body has deteriorated. It seems equally illogical to imagine that the soul would enter another body. Even people who believe that it occurs say that it is a miracle and science has never proven that miracles occur.

Mediums are frequently frauds. The rabbi reads the biblical story of King Saul visiting a medium who brought up Samuel from the dead to allow Saul an opportunity to discuss his impending battle with the dead prophet. True, many fundamentalists accept the story as a true occurrence. But rationalists such as the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) recognized that the tale is impossible and explained it as a dream by an agitated king.

Rabbi Spitz recognizes that the recollections of people under hypnosis of past lives are questionable. The recollections are usually the result of statements made by the hypnotist. Spitz underwent such an experience. Prior to being hypnotized, the hypnotist asked him what he thought about as a youngster and he mentioned Indians, and when he was hypnotized he saw himself as an Indian.

True, there are many statements by mystics, Jewish and non-Jewish, claiming that there is life after death and speaking about reincarnation and similar notions. These include statements by famous Jewish sages that they received instructions from angels and that they were resurrected from earlier Jewish heroes. However, these are the same people who claim that God was composed of ten parts, became separated, and needs human help to be put together again.

No doubt many people believe in near death experiences. However, this is a rather recent phenomenon and may be the result of the recent popularity of the subject and many people being led to expect it. Hardly any ancients spoke about it. The rabbi states that it seems to be true because all of the experiences are remarkably the same. Yet in another section of his book, he admits that there are sticking differences between the experiences of various people. For example, he tells the tale of a soldier who had a near death experience, but there was no white light and no dead relative greeting him, as others claimed. Instead, he was greeted by God who asked him if he wanted to return to life. When he answered "yes," he recovered. Similarly, many Christians said they saw Jesus, but no Jew made this claim. If Rabbi Spitz truly believes the near death stories are true, why doesn't he believe in Jesus who allegedly appeared to the Christians?

In summary, none of my comments should be read to suggest that there is no life after death, only that there is no proof that it exists. Whether readers accept Rabbi Spitz's view about life after death, reject it completely, or remain an agnostic regarding it, readers will enjoy the rabbi's analyses and the many stories that he tells to support his view, and will be stimulated by the discussions to think more deeply about this and related subjects.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As fresh and relevant today, November 12, 2010
Ten years ago, as I sat by the bedside of my father, now of blessed memory, I extensively used Rabbi Spitz's extraordinary book as a compass, which guided both of us as my dad gently transitioned. Yesterday, to honor my father's memory, I reread "Does the Soul Survive?" and my journal entries for that emotional time. The book is as fresh today as when I first read it, the insights speak to the sparks of love and eternity in each of us. Since his passing, and the passing of my mother of blessed memory, I have experienced the "presence" of these people who brought me into this world and raised me up. His book has been and continues to be a blessing in my life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to Jewish Views of the Afterlife, March 22, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Does the Soul Survive?: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose (Hardcover)
I was moved to write this FIVE STAR review after reading the review of Gershom Gale, which was highly critical of this title. Following is my view of why this book is a valuable addition to the libraries of those who wish to know more about various concepts of life after death from a Jewish perspective.
Rabbi Spitz's book is meaningful for many, precisely BECAUSE Rabbi Spitz comes from a rationalist background that is highly skeptical of the notion of life after death. Like many contemporary readers, Rabbi Spitz has begun to question a worldview that embraces the purely empirical at the expense of the metaphysical. Rabbi Spitz's questioning has led him to explore the teachings of traditional Judaism on life after death, and he finds much to embrace and admire therein.
Rabbi Spitz's journey mirrors a journey that many Jews and non-Jews are undertaking, and his candor and scholarship deserve plaudits. People of all faiths will find this book provocative, and the book is particularly useful for Jews who were brought up in a secular tradition, but who wonder if the soul survives death. If you are building a library about spiritual beliefs on the concept of life after death, or a library on the diversity of Jewish beliefs on this subject, buy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincing Evidence of The Soul's Survival, January 29, 2008
I have read a few books on this theme, and this book is by far the most convincing. Rabbi Spitz researched his theme from the standpoint of a sceptic, but as the evidence stacked up he became convinced himself. This book is in the best traditions of objectivity. Rabbi Spitz traces the course of his investigations into the soul's survival, and does not fail to mention the problems inherent in reaching a conclusion. Yet his personal doubts, and the way he overcame them, only add to the veracity of his account. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in finding out the truth, as far as it can be determined.
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