A rabbi and a therapist speak of the world to come.
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abbi William Gershon
readily admitted he has no
firsthand knowledge of the
subject he was about to ad-
dress. No one does, he said.
The subject at last week's Jew-
ish Federation Women's Division
"Food for Thought" breakfast was
life after death. Rabbi Gershon,
of Congregation Shaarey Zedek,
discussed Jewish views on the af-
terlife. Dr. Alicia Tisdale, a West
Bloomfield therapist, spoke on
Rabbi Gershon described
death as transcending human
comprehension, a contradiction
to everything we know of this life.
Although Judaism believes that,
in the end, life will triumph over
death, Jews should be thinking
less about the world to come and
concentrating more on this life,
"We are to be God's surrogates
on earth," doing His work, he
said. To focus on another world
takes away from our responsi-
bility to do mitzvot here.
He said that Judaism teaches,
"Better one hour of repentance
and good deeds in this world than
an entire lifetime in the world to
"The worst realization is that
you could have been a mentsh,
you could have led a life of good
deeds, and now it's too late," Rab-
bi Gershon explained.
At the same time, Jew-
ish texts make frequent
mention of the afterlife and
resurrection of the dead.
"The soul, according to
Judaism, lives on," he said.
We are told that there will
be reward and punish-
ment, that we will be an-
swerable for our actions in
the world to come, he said.
Images of what the af-
terlife will be like vary,
from students who dream
of "one big yeshiva" to another's
hopeful view of a world of "sex,
Shabbat and sunshine."
Judaism also speaks of bodily
resurrection when the Messiah
comes. "Is it hard to believe?"
Rabbi Gershon said. "Yes." At the
same time, "resurrection at its
core reaffirms this world." It af-
firms that the human body is
beautiful and valuable, not a
source of constant evil (as some
And is it really so difficult to
believe in resurrection, he asked,
when the Torah teaches that God
created something, the world,
"So why not something from
something?" he asked.
Above: Dr. Alicia
Tisdale: "Love is
all that matters."
How to address
Rabbi Gershon also discussed
the concept of gilgul nefesh, a
kind of reappearance of the soul
(popularly translated as rein-
carnation). Some people believe
gilgul nefesh allows one to
come back to Earth to resolve
unsettled issues. They use it as
an explanation for suffering (we
have the chance to come back
again and again, until we get it
"But if you're a child born in
Rwanda and you die of starva-
tion, I'm not sure you're going to
find the idea of reincarnation
very meaningful," he said.
Rabbi Gershon ended his talk
with a tale of two twins in the
womb. They are coming to the
end of their term. Suddenly, one
begins to cry and struggle as he
exits the womb into a bright light
at the hospital. For a moment,
the other is left behind and he be-
gins to sob, "My brother is gone!
He must be dead!"
"There is a world in which it
(death) is not a death but a
birth," Rabbi Gershon said.
"This life is a mystery and a gift,
and so, too, is the life beyond,
and only when we get there will
The second speaker, Dr. Tis-
dale, said she became interest-
ed in reincarnation after reading
Brian Weiss' book Many Lives,
Many Masters, the story of a pa-
tient whose problems disappear
after discovering she had lived
Dr. Tisdale has since done
about 1,000 regressions to past
lives, she said.
She said many of her patients
are not believers. "They come as
a last resort." Dr. Tisdale then
takes them to previous lives in
an effort to find a source of their
woes in this world. Ninety per-
cent require three sessions or