Jewish Views of the Afterlife

Product Details
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.0 X 1.18 inches | 1.69 pounds

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About the Author
Simcha Paull Raphael is founder and director of the DA'AT Institute for Death Awareness, Advocacy and Training, adjunct professor in the Department of Religion and Theology at LaSalle University, and on the faculty of the New York Open Center's Art of Dying Institute. He works as a transpersonal psychotherapist and bereavement counselor affiliated with Mount Airy Counseling Center in Philadelphia and is a Fellow of the Rabbis Without Borders network. His website is
...Raphael's book adds a Jewish voice to the cacophony of other traditions that avow that life continues. It clearly shows that Jewish belief in life after death and many elements of the near-death experience is older and deeper than contemporary doubt.--Beverly Brodsky "The Journal of Near-Death Studies"
Jewish Views of the Afterlife is a rare gem of a book that should not go unnoticed by scholars in thanatology and religious studies. . . . With great detail and painstaking scholarship, Raphael explores the rich and complex development of Jewish perspectives and debates on the afterlife. The book is encyclopedic in its treatment, carefully exploring Jewish perspectives from Biblical Judaism through the period of medieval scholarship through to contemporary times. It is inclusive exploring Orthodox and Reform perspectives as well as the viewpoints of the Kabbalists and Hasidic sects. Each new edition included not only new scholarship but new topics such as reincarnation, ghosts and spirits in Yiddish literature, and implications of the afterlife for Jewish ritual. Yet despite the scholarship, there remains a deep sense of compassion that never fails to explore the implications of this material to assisting other dealing with dying and bereavement. . . . Put simply, this book is the source.-- "Omega - Journal of Death and Dying"
Jewish Views of the Afterlife is a profound and comprehensive guide to the multiplicity of Jewish perspectives on death, the soul, and eternal life. The book includes Jewish perspectives on heaven and hell, ancestors and the underworld, reincarnation and resurrection. A cornucopia of primary sources and commentary illuminate the development of a variety of Jewish beliefs about the afterlife, spanning centuries of Jewish history. Raphael's book is both well-organized and sensitive to the power of this topic. There is no other book like this--it is a treasure.--Rabbi Jill Hammer, director, Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion
Simcha Raphael envisioned this profound and beautiful book as a 'traveler's guide to the afterlife' as he searches through four thousand years of cultural history for texts and teachings of the Jewish sages about death and the meaning of life. He describes in a totally fascinating way how the Zohar, the key collection of texts of the mystical Kabbalah, originating historically in thirteenth-century Spain, contains detailed descriptions of the after-death journey of the soul. Perhaps surprising to modern readers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, these texts contain a detailed phenomenology of deathbed visions, the kinds of ethical choices and challenges the soul may expect to confront on this journey, and visionary guidance in anticipation of the hereafter and a new incarnation to come.--Ralph Metzner, professor emeritus at the California Institute of Integral Studies and author of The Well of Remembrance
While many modern Jews may not realize it, Judaism has an extensive mythology about the afterlife. Simcha Raphaell has devoted himself to exploring the geography, traditions, and rituals of heaven-and-hell-related Jewish myth found in the Bible, the Talmud, and many rabbinic, kabbalistic and Hasidic texts. Jewish Views of the Afterlife, now in its third expanded edition, is the most extensive in English to describe these realms of the afterlife, and a revelation to those unaware of these traditions. They include the biblical heaven, where God and the angels reside, and the biblical sheol, the first references to a biblical afterlife. There also are extensive talmudic and kabbalistic references to the fate of righteous souls in heaven and frightening details about the fate of those sentenced to Gehenna, Jewish hell. This new edition presents a fascinating exploration of images of afterlife and the world beyond in Yiddish literature. Jewish Views of the Afterlife is a masterpiece of scholarship, worthy reading for everyone curious about these once widely known Jewish traditions.--Howard Schwartz, Author of Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism
[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.-- "Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews"
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.--Justin Jaron Lewis "Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses"
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. His timing could not be better. This book arrives at a time when there is a Jewish renewal movement springing up that has new questions and that is in search of new perspectives on what life is really all about. It comes at a time when there is a new awareness of cosmology, a new curiosity about mysticism, and a new understanding of the nature of matter and energy. All these things come together to create a community that will be receptive to this book. There is enormous scholarship here, but even more important than the facts and the footnotes that it contains, there is a sense that this is a writer who writes out of his own innermost concerns. He is not just an archaeologist digging up the beliefs of his ancestors; he is a pathfinder pointing the way for many who want to learn.--Rabbi Jack Riemer, editor of The World of the High Holy Days and So That Your Values Live On
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