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Jewish Views of the Afterlife Paperback – June 15, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Jewish Views of the Afterlife introduces readers to previously inaccessible parts of the Jewish tradition. As Dr. Simcha Raphael mines the riches of afterlife visions, he offers new vistas of hope and comfort in confronting death and dying. This new edition's practical guidance for integrating these insights into spiritual care with dying and grieving individuals and families is invaluable. (Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman, author, Jewish Visions for Aging: A Professional Guide for Fostering Wholeness)

Can we imagine a Jewish Dante? Jewish Views of the Afterlife challenged prevailing contemporary assumptions about Judaism as a religion focused on life, not death, a religion opposed to all 'otherworldly' speculations. Now, with a second edition of this landmark book, readers can ponder and wonder afresh what it means to accept an 'afterlife,' and how such a worldview might influence the daily lives and experiences of those who hold it. This book is a model of how to present the richness and strangeness of a religious tradition's teachings, to a wide audience, in a thoroughly readable style. (Lucy Bregman, Temple University)

Simcha Raphael's book presents an array of images on life after death which convincingly dispel the misconception that Judaism lacks beliefs about the hereafter. In this second edition, a new chapter on death rituals deepens the contribution this book makes to contemporary Jewish life. From life review and ethical wills, to the work of chevra kaddisha, the Jewish burial society, this book provides a path for those of us seeking to connect ritual traditions around end of life to the full spirituality of the death process. Those working with Jewish death traditions, personally or professionally, should include this book in their reference library. (David Zinner, Kavod v'Nichum, North American Chevra Kaddisha Conference)

Praise for the first edition:[Raphael] traces, in a synoptic style, 4,000 years of Jewish thought on the afterlife by investigating pertinent sacred texts produced in each era. From the Bible, Apocrypha, rabbinic literature, medieval philosophy, medieval Midrash, Kabbalah, and Hasidism, the reader learns how Judaism conceived of the fate of the individual after death throughout Jewish history. (Journal Of Nietzsche Studies)

Praise for the first editon:Simcha Paull Raphael has performed an act of resurrection. He has restored the rich heritage of Jewish thought about life after death that has been repressed, disdained, or ignored for so long and he has made the heritage accessible for the first time to a new generation of Jews. (Rabbi Jack Riemer, editor of The World of the High Holy Days and So That Your Values Live On)

Since its first publication in 1994, I have recommended this book to many students and congregants…. Wide-ranging, passionate, clearly written, and thoroughly researched…. For many readers, then, this important work of scholarship may also be a spiritual resource. For all readers, it is an outstanding example of Jewish religious creativity today as well as a window into a neglected and surprisingly rich theme in Jewish religious texts. (Studies In Religion/Sciences Religieuses)

About the Author

Simcha Paull Raphael is adjunct assistant professor in Jewish Studies at Temple University, is a spiritual director at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and has a psychotherapy practice in Philadelphia where he specializes in bereavement. He has been involved in spiritually-oriented death awareness education for more than 20 years.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 2 edition (June 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742562212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742562219
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 30, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Most Jews are under the mistaken impression that Judaism does not believe in an afterlife. This is not so, and in fact Jewish texts preserve a rich tradition of how this concept has been understood and taught throughout Jewish history. This book is an excellent introduction and overview of how the afterlife is viewed in The Torah, The Talmud, the medieval works, the Midrash and the books of the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). One of its special features is that many medieval Jewish texts are presented here for the first time in English!
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Format: Paperback
The fate of the soul after death is the major focus of Simcha Paull Raphael's beautifully written tome. Culled from 4,000 year of classical Jewish source material it's topics include resurrection, Gan Eden and Gehenna, angels; the, history and tradition of the souls appearance and disappearance from the modern Jewish world, etc. You can start anywhere and skip about to your heart's content. Any good Jewish library is incomplete without it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is rare to find a scholarly book that is a pleasure to read. Simcha Paull Raphael's book is one of these gems. The scope of his knowledge is amazing, and his writing style is a breath of fresh air. The author explores the evolution of Jewish beliefs about life after death from biblical times to the present. This is, without doubt, the best introduction I have seen. It is must read for anyone interested in this topic.
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Format: Paperback
This book far exceeded my expectations...it covers a huge amount of intellectual material, but remains easy to understand throughout. Though the author will resist the appellation, this is the "Jewish Book of the Dead" for english readers. Highly recommended and downright inspiring. Bravo.
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Format: Paperback
The author wrote in the Preface to this 1994 book, "As I demonstrate throughout this book, teachings on life after death have always been part of the Jewish spiritual legacy. Although I have gathered together the most extensive compilation of Jewish afterlife sources available in one place, and have attempted to produce a resource book that has scholarly integrity, in no way is this book exhaustive. After more than fifteen years, (it) still feels to me like a work in progress." He adds later, "Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi encouraged me to take on the task of researching and writing this book."

The book contains sections on "Biblical Roots," "Apocryphal Literature," "The World to Come in Rabbinic Judaism," "Medieval Midrash," "Medieval Philosophy," "Kabbalah," "Hasidic Tales," and "A Contemporary Psychological Model of the Afterlife."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"...in the modern era Judaism does not have an extensive tradition on the afterlife." (Pg. 6)
"...Christian notions of life after death have permeated Jewish awareness, at a very deep, unconscious level." (Pg. 27)
"A Gallup poll in 1952 asked the question 'Do you think that your soul will live on after death?' ... only 35 percent of Jews responded affirmatively. In 1965 the numbers were even lower... only 17 percent of Jewish respondents believed that their souls would live on after death. The remaining 83 percent of the Jews polled said either 'no' or 'don't know.'" (Pg. 29)
"Absolutely nowhere in the Bible do we find a unified view about life after death that reflects postmortem beliefs of the entire biblical era, or even of any one period." (Pg. 42)
"At this stage in biblical history, the notion of a personal immortality does not yet exist." (Pg.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I used this book as part of a research project on the Jewish understand of Jesus' resurrection in light of eschatology. It was both scholarly well-cited as well as an easy read. I feel this as an excellent journey through the evolution of Israelite/Jewish beliefs.

I found the sections on the importance of land in relation to family for the Israelites especially interesting. The verse in the Old Testament permitting stoning children sounds abominable until you understand the greater context.1) Israelites as a tribal people found land of great importance; sheol (their afterlife realm) existed in parallel with present world and there were certain burial rites requires to ensure a proper transition. If a child was disobedient to their parents, then there is no assurance the child would be socially compliant enough to bury his parents correctly, thus preventing their continued existence in sheol; much better to kill the child, bury him properly (he would still continue his existence in sheol) , and then have another child to ensure the family's benefit.

I hopped around in the book so I can't review it in it's entirety, nor can I offer many details as amongst all my research, I have forgotten a particulars on specifics books, but I do offer praise for the book in general. It is great supplemental information for research, but also written where a general reader would receive benefit. Once the "Jewish culture" receptors in my brain are no longer burnt out, I will likely return to this book due it's vast insight.

In researching other books on Jewish Afterlife beliefs, another reviewer suggest Kin, Cult, Land, and Afterlife by Herbert Brichto which I read. As an article it is much shorter and offers comparative cultural info on the four topics in its title.
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