Is There a Heaven in Judaism?
Posted on 18 February 2019, 9:10
In her recently released book, Changed in a Flash, Elizabeth Krohn (below) laments the fact that her Jewish faith did not prepare her for her near-death experience and had no answers for her after it took place. She didn’t begin to get answers for it until some 25 years later, after corresponding with Dr. Bruce Greyson, an NDE researcher at the University of Virginia, and then meeting John Price, an Episcopalian priest who works with people who have had NDEs. “This priest lent credibility to my near-death experience, something I had searched in vain for when I tried to speak to my own clergy about my experiences,” she explains, stating that her attempts to speak to four different rabbis at her synagogue were mostly dismissive and seemingly uncomfortable for them.
Krohn’s NDE took place in 1988, when she was 28, in the parking lot of her synagogue. After being stuck by lightning, she found herself in a garden that “is beyond description” and she immediately came to understand that time is not linear. Knowledge came to her in the voice of her beloved grandfather, although she now doesn’t think it was her grandfather. When she returned to the earth life, she was not the same person she had been. “The new Elizabeth would see life in varying shades of gray,” she explains. “Nothing would be black and white ever again.” Among the aftereffects were the ability to see auras, precognition, and synaesthesia, the latter described as a neurological phenomenon in which a person might “hear’ colors, “see” music, and “taste” shapes. She also claims to have received a phone call from her deceased grandfather in the middle of the night, her bedroom being filled with “odourless smoke” as her grandfather spoke with her.
As she now sees it, the experience was to help her understand that death is not the end of life. The lightning strike was, according to her grandfather or whoever the guide was, “in the contract” before she was born.
Raised in Reform Judaism and still actively attending services in her synagogue in Houston, Texas, Krohn devotes several pages to her disappointment with her faith. She opines that Reform Judaism “has become so heavily focused on social justice that it doesn’t even matter if you maintain Jewish mores, observe the Sabbath, or probably even believe in God…” Reform Judaism, she says, has become a political organization with not much of a spiritual component. The rabbis she consulted about her NDE apparently had no clue as to what she had experienced and made no effort to comprehend it.
On the same day I was reading Krohn’s words, Annie Karni, a New York Times correspondent, criticized President Donald Trump for saying, during his State of the Union message, that “They came down from heaven” when quoting a Holocaust survivor watching American soldiers liberate Dachau. Karni attempted to blast Trump by tweeting that “Jews don’t believe in heaven.” Karni apparently met with much criticism from the Jewish community for her tweet, but her tweet no doubt represents the belief of many practicing Jews, who are taught to focus on the earthly life and give no heed to what comes after, if anything.
According to a website called Judaism 101, “Traditional Judaism firmly believes that death is not the end of human existence. However, because Judaism is primarily focused on life here and now rather than on the afterlife, Judaism does not have much of a dogma about the afterlife, and leaves a great deal of room for personal opinion.”
As Dr. Carla Wills Brandon, the author of several books dealing with deathbed visions and other spiritual phenomena, sees it, much of this loss of spirituality in Judaism has to do with the Holocaust. “Previous to World War II, most Jews were still very religious,” she explains in an email exchange on the subject. “…The losses after World War II were great. The question that was asked was where was God while my relatives, parents, and children were being slaughtered by the Nazis.” She goes on to say that initially those who survived the Holocaust didn’t want to talk about it at all. She heard nothing about how her father’s family survived it all. The unresolved feelings about tragedies in the past, Wills Brandon points out, travel from one generation to the next.
Krohn mentions that Hasidic Judaism, a more conservative and stricter branch than Reform Judaism, seems to be more aware of matters of the soul than Reform Judaism or other sects of Judaism. However, she is unable to accept some of its more fundamentalist principles, especially with regard to women and how to live in the modern world, and therefore she sticks with Reform Judaism in spite of its failure to embrace the spiritual. “And I don’t foresee Reform Jews ever giving the attention and credit to spirituality that would allow me to feel comfortable there,” she continues, adding that she knows “that sharing the knowledge and messages from the Garden that death is not final would bring immense comfort to so many bereaved and frightened fellow humans.”
But is that any different than Christianity? I frequently see comments on the Internet by atheists, many of them former Christians, suggesting that all the misery, pain, turmoil and chaos in the world would not be permitted by a loving God, and therefore God must not exist. They have been indoctrinated with the idea that God is an anthropomorphic being who demands worship, and if “He” doesn’t get it, well, woe are they. And, no God, no afterlife. They then subscribe to the hedonistic philosophy that we should live in the present, live for today, live in the moment, have fun, etc. They don’t seem to grasp that the message of Christ was not worship of God but that consciousness survives death. “No one can begin to progress until he has correct ideas of the future existence,” was the message that New York State Supreme Court Justice John Edmonds received from the spirit world, “and it is only when not in error on that subject, only when knowing our spiritual nature and destiny that we begin to progress.”
Renowned psychiatrist Victor Frankl, (below) who endured four Nazi death camps, recognized what he called an “existential vacuum” in the civilized world – a mass neurosis that is a form of nihilism, or a feeling that life has no meaning. He believed that religious conviction in a greater reality is very therapeutic in overcoming this neurosis. He recalled speaking with a rabbi, who had lost his wife and six children in the concentration camp of Auschwitz and had just found out that his second wife was sterile. The rabbi was in a state of despair over not having a son who would say Kaddish for him after his death. He considered himself a sinful man and did not believe himself capable of achieving the same place in heaven as his innocent children. “Is it not conceivable, Rabbi, that precisely this was the meaning of your surviving your children: that you may be purified through these years of suffering, so that finally, you, too, though not innocent like your children, may become worthy of joining them in Heaven?” Frankl put to him. “Is it not written in the Psalms that God preserves all your tears? So perhaps none of your sufferings were in vain?” According to Frankl, the rabbi had not previously considered this viewpoint and he found much relief from his despair in it.
“In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has meaning up to the last moment,” Frankl offered, “and it retains meaning literally to the end. In other words, life’s meaning is an unconditional one, for it even includes the potential meaning of unavoidable suffering.”
The non-believers, whatever name they give themselves, think such a belief implies that we must be focused on the afterlife and not really be concerned about this life. Outside of a few people on their deathbeds, I can’t recall ever having met any such person. The vast majority of religious people I’ve met over my 82 years are more concerned with “worshipping God,” whatever that means to them, and have given no real thought to an afterlife, beyond angels strumming harps and praising God twenty-four/seven. The Christian churches have not offered their faithful much more than Judaism has relative to “meaning” or surviving the earth life.
To again quote another renowned psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung: “A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss. For the question that is posed to him is the age-old heritage of humanity: an archetype, rich in secret life, which seeks to add itself to our own individual life in order to make it whole. Reason sets the boundaries far too narrowly for us, and would have us accept only the known – and that too with limitations – and live in a known framework, just as if we were sure how far life actually extends.”
What the non-believers don’t get is that when you fully grasp the wisdom of Frankl and Jung you can more effectively “live in the present” and more effectively deal with the adversity, all of which is part of the progression plan.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: March 4
Her case is soooooooooo typical. Thank you Michael for writing about it. Of all the experiencers I’ve worked with, the ones who have the most difficult time dealing with their NDE are those of the Jewish faith. I find it very interesting that most of those who started IANDS and began researching near-death states were all Jewish. No, not Raymond, or one other guy (don’t remember his name right now), but everyone else – all Jews. There’s something about that particular faith that “hits a wall” with NDEs, and really digs in with what’s true and what isn’t. Bruce Greyson will finally be coming out with his own book in about a year. Read his proposal. It will be very good.
PMH Atwater, Tue 26 Feb, 05:45
Thank you, Michael, for all you do. PMH
Thanks for this informative and timely blog Mike. And thanks to everyone else for such a stimulating conversation. I feel enriched just being here.
gordon phinn, Sat 23 Feb, 00:07
Just came upon this related article:
Michael Tymn, Fri 22 Feb, 07:49
Yes, I did suspect there was a wide divergence of opinion among Jews, both secular and observant.
2000 years ago, the Jews were split into two main camps: the one Saul belonged to, and the one to which Jesus and his family belonged. I have read that the former were skeptical, and the latter did believe in an afterlife. So Jesus did not introduce the idea of an afterlife to the Jews, although he certainly gave it much greater certainty.
Chris Carter, Fri 22 Feb, 01:24
I vaguely remember having read a long time ago that a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp was once mockingly asked by a camp guard:
“Where is your God now?”
He answered something like:
“He’s here suffering as us Jews now.”
(Can’t find it on the Internet though.)
Lodewijk Langeweg, Thu 21 Feb, 10:48
Brilliant,we live & learn. 🙏
Rose, Thu 21 Feb, 05:25
Surprised that the oldest spiritual group has not verified what finally is man’s end….thousands of years they had to make sure of this issue ....so many have contacted the other side ...all the discussions (a million or more ) could prove one way or the other ...if it is real or not
Robbie Roberts, Thu 21 Feb, 01:30
Starting from the witch of Endor ...to present ....it should after
..several thousand years ....become clearly manifest ?
Or do we need another few thousand to make sure ...you tell me ?
Yes, spirituality is central to Chassidus. I’ve journeyed from the secular world to more observance by studying Chassidus. It answers all the questions of life - why are we here, what happens when we die, how should we live our lives. Please watch a few videos from Rabbi Manis Friedman and decide for yourselves. Thank you.
David Kaplan, Wed 20 Feb, 05:59
Mike, Another good piece. Most of my Jewish friends are Reform and indeed are only focused on family and this life. Both Judaism and Christianity are calcified and at a crossroads in terms of delivering a viable spirituality in a modern world.
Michael Schmicker, Tue 19 Feb, 19:19
Jeffrey Mishlove has an hour-long video interview with Elizabeth Krohn in which she provides the details of her experience of getting hit by lightning and going to ‘heaven’ and speaking with her ‘grandfather’. It is a fascinating story and presented by Mrs. Krohn in a very believable way. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 19 Feb, 00:05
Paul, Sharon Friedman,
Thank you for those interesting comments. By email, Dave Stang commented that I should have mentioned Sheol. Here is a paragraph from an article I wrote for Atlantis Rising magazine some years ago.
“Traditional Jewish beliefs don’t help much in charting the afterlife, as there are different schools of thought within the overall Jewish umbrella, one school not even believing in an afterlife, another school believing in it but not concerned with it, and still other schools with varying degrees of concern. One school of believers holds that after death only the very righteous go to Gan Eden (Garden of Eden). The average person goes to an intermediate state, apparently Sheol, for punishment and/or purification, while the wicked go to Gehenna, a place of eternal punishment. Sheol seems to be the Catholic equivalent of purgatory, although some Jews believe Gehenna to be the intermediate state.
Michael Tymn, Mon 18 Feb, 23:31
Nice article, Mike. Judaism 101 is a good source of information on most traditional Jewish beliefs, many of which have been forfeited by Reform Judaism, which has become a home for “cultural Jews” whose rabbis have given up on an afterlife, just as Elizabeth says.
I know of one highly developed Jewish NDE. I include it in an appendix in my book Heaven and Hell Unveiled. I wish every Jew could read it. It’s similar to the very best non-Jewish accounts, just as you would expect. It is beautiful and exhilarating.
Stafford Betty, Mon 18 Feb, 18:57
Rabbi Spitz’s book is well worth reading in this regard. He looks at scripture as well as his own experiences as a rabbi.
Sharon Friedman, Mon 18 Feb, 18:06
“Does the Soul Survive? (2nd Edition): A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living with Purpose”.
I wish that a Christian pastor would write a similar open-minded kind of book!
Elizabeth Krohn’s experience is no surprise. Until the world accepts Spiritualism, we will continue to endure the misconceptions of “religions.”
Paul J. Hauser, Mon 18 Feb, 17:53
When we accept the concept that life on earth is a learning experience which is meant to improve our spirituality in the afterlife - which is where we actually exist - we will be able to spiritually grow to the point where we no longer need to return to earth, but continue to exist in the spiritual realm.
These ideas were most clearly detailed in the books by William Stanton Moses: Spirit Teachings; and More Spirit Teachings - which were written over 100 years ago and ignored by most of the world.
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