Immortality of the soul versus Resurrection of the body are the predominant themes within the pages of Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife, by Leila Leah Bronner. Bronner also encompasses the area of reincarnation after we die.
From biblical times, the afterlife has been a concern and thought that is foremost on the minds of those who have lost loved ones. Bronner includes so much within the pages regarding whether we live on through our souls, or whether we will live once again through the body’s resurrection. The journey from biblical times to today’s modern world is explained by her, and her viewpoints. She uses biblical quotations to infuse her thoughts and ideals regarding life, death, afterlife, and all the possibilities within those realms to give the reader information to ponder, and even to discuss with family and friends.
Bronner points to the fact that “Sheol” is used quite often within the Torah. “Sheol” is a place where the dead are gathered and descended to, “the biblical underworld”, it also can mean a pit or grave, or beneath the earth. The transition of beliefs regarding “Sheol” has evolved throughout the centuries.
An afterlife has been a dimension of Judaism throughout the ages, whether it be through a belief in a ‘world to come”, an eternal soul or through a Jewish belief in a resurrection.
From Rabbis to philosophers, the afterlife has been discussed in great depth. Rabbis, in particular wanted to impart upon their congregants that there would be an afterlife. By doing so they try to give a sense of comfort to congregants and their often harsh and debilitating surroundings they are currently under. They try to impart that there will eventually be a world that will be rewarding. Bronner cites from the Talmud the fact that one is assured of an afterlife through living properly, and exhibiting good deeds and behavior that is proper.
She relates Kabbalah perspectives affirming a mystical approach to life after death. Since the first notion of Kabbalah in the Middle Ages, the theory has gained momentum in succeeding centuries. In today’s modern world, Kabbalah centers can be found almost everywhere, and the practice has taken on a large population, not only of Jewish individuals, but others, as well.
Bronner explains what she calls “Verbs of Resurrection”. She believes these words reflect to resurrection of the dead. They are found in small passages. Some of the words are: “to awaken, to take, and to return”.
I enjoyed the comparisons and the quotations. And, I found a deeper understanding of some biblical references and what their meanings might actually be. One must look at each sentence and the structure of each source carefully. Examine it cognitively, and also for any underlying mystical reference.
The steps on the path towards learning can be a comfort to those who find themselves in a state of disorder or confusion. Whether you believe or not, this inspirational book will definitely give you insight into perspectives of an afterlife, and it will bring you content to ponder and make your own decisions on.
Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife, by Leila Leah Bronner is an excellent resource that affords the reader motivation to further examine biblical references, the Torah, the Mishnah, etc., in their journey towards educating themselves on the aspects and/or Jewish beliefs of Heaven and the afterlife.
I highly recommend it to everyone, Jewish or otherwise.