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Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife Hardcover – June 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Urim Publications; First Edition edition (June 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9655240479
  • ISBN-13: 978-9655240474
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Is it bodily resurrection or immortality of the soul, reincarnation or transmigration? Leila Bronner has written a fascinating analysis of the afterlife in Judaism, tracing its mysteries from earliest biblical post-Holocaust views.... Adding her own creative insights and sociological analyses to the mix, she presents a highly readable, erudite exposition that brings clarity, knowledge--and life--to an elusive, oft-neglected concept in Judaism. --Blu Greenberg, author of On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition

Conversant with Jewish writings throughout the ages, Dr. Bronner is a gifted writer with an uncanny ability to trace the major Jewish beliefs in an afterlife through the ages, recognize nuances and tensions, and present the reader with lucid formulations. The ideas of bodily resurrection, immortality of the soul, reincarnation, the World to Come, and the Messiah have continuously suffused Judaism and are still with us. A fascinating book. --Professor Bezalel Porten, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

In her compelling and widely encompassing Journey to Heaven, Bronner succeeds in elucidating an area in which many angels feared to tread. With scholarship and commitment, she has provided an historical textual study of the ideas concerning the afterlife…. Since death touches each of us throughout our lives and eventually brings every one of us into its domain, there can be no topic of greater interest and significance. Bronner is to be congratulated for giving us the challenge and the comfort of the fruits of her scholarship. --Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat

About the Author

Leila Leah Bronner is a noted community activist, professor and writer. She is a former professor of Bible and Jewish history at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, as well as former visiting scholar at Bar Ilan University in Israel, Harvard University, and Yeshiva University’s Institute of Adult Studies in New York. She is the author of several books, including From Eve to Esther: Rabbinic Reconstructions of Biblical Women and Stories of Biblical Mothers: Maternal Power in the Hebrew Bible. She lives in Los Angeles.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R Safman on May 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating book traces the journey that Jewish thought has taken since biblical times in its understanding of what happens after we die. The writing is both elegant and clear, with the author's formidable erudition presented in a manner that's remarkably easy to understand for the layperson, whether he or she is Jewish, Christian, agnostic or simply curious.

Journey to Heaven starts by examining the earliest references to resurrection in the Hebrew Bible. From there, it moves on, across the centuries, to Second Temple-period sources (eg the Wisdom of Solomon), which include some of the first Jewish references of the immortality of the soul. The Talmud, it turns out, has some very interesting things to say on the "World to Come."

In the Middle Ages, the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) added a new element to Jewish thinking on the afterlife: reincarnation. Kabbalistic thought had a profound influence on the Hassidic movement - for instance, in the story of the Dybbuk. During the Holocaust, a deep faith in the afterlife provided solace to rabbis and laypeople alike in their final moments.

Since the Enlightenment, belief in the afterlife has taken a drubbing from rationalism and a generally skeptical approach to faith. In our time, though, many people are once again open to traditional approaches to the next world - and to its implications for the meaning of life in this world. Journey to Heaven is a great introduction to the development of Jewish thought on "the undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn no traveller returns," as Shakespeare called it in Hamlet.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Many scholars take the position that no book of the Hebrew Bible, with the possible exception of the late second century BCE Daniel 12:2-3, speaks about life after death, and are convinced that the various ideas about the after-life were taken from pagan notions. Daniel states that "those who sleep in the dust will awake." This may refer to the people as a whole who will be able to defeat their Syrian Greek oppressors and be a free nation again. Be this as it may, the second century BCE was the first time that this concept entered Judaism as a view of the Pharisees, and it was strongly objected to by the more conservative Sadducees.

Dr. Bronner, a professor at several prominent universities, takes an opposite view. She sees frequent references to an afterlife in the early biblical books, including the Five Books of Moses, and she details, with full quotes, what these sources say. She describes the growth of these beliefs in post-biblical discussions about life after death, the world to come, heaven, hell, judgment, resurrection, and reincarnation. She introduces readers to books such as the apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha. She discusses the views of rabbis, philosophers, and mystics.

She feels that the Torah is speaking about an afterlife when it mentions "Sheol" some sixty five times and when it uses synonyms like "the pit" and "the hidden place," although others define these terms as the grave. She sees phrases like "gathered to one's people" and "sleeping with his fathers" as a "belief in some kind of existence after death," while others read them as beautiful metaphors for "he died." She also reads the belief in life after death in six verbs, depending, of course, on the context: awaken, arise, take, stand up, return, and live.
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