Near Death Experiences

(a Jewish perspective)

1. Introduction

Many people wonder if there’s life after death. The Torah answers in the affirmative, and that’s why we live according to the dictates of God. In the words of our sages, this world is a corridor to the World to Come. Skeptics challenge, “How do you know? Has anyone returned from there?” The answer is yes. Thousands have! And in our times. Their personal accounts re-affirm what the Torah has been saying for thousands of years, and with amazing accuracy. Let’s take a journey onto the shadow of death and see that there is life after life.

The recent accounts were recorded by Dr. Raymond Moody in

    Life After Life

documenting his breakthrough research into the experience of hundreds of people who experienced clinical death, and returned to life to tell what they saw on “the other side”. We’ll begin with a brief introduction into NDE as recorded in our sources, and then explore the main characteristics of the NDE experience first as described in recent accounts, then as found in our ancient sources.

2. NDE in Our Sources:

Kesubos 62b (104), R Chanina ben Chachinoi left his home to study Torah for 12 years. When he returned, he entered his house unexpectedly. When his wife saw him, she was startled and died. R Chanina prayed, “Is this her reward for enabling me to study Torah for 12 years?” She returned to life.

Pesachim 50a (98), Rav Yosef was sick, fainted and his soul departed. After some time he returned to life. His father R’ Yehoshua asked him what he saw. He replied, “I saw an upside down world. People who were considered important in this world are below in that word, and people considered lowly in this world were elevated in that world.

Midrash Raba Ruth 3:1 (98), Rav Maysha, the son of R. Yosef, was dead for three days. Afterward he returned to life. His father Rav Yosef asked him what he saw. He replied that he also saw what his father saw.

Semachos, ch. 8 (105), We are to go to the cemetery up to three days after burial to see if the person returned to life. Once they visited a man in the cemetery who returned to life and lived another 25 years afterwards. Another person returned to life and had another 5 sons.

Brought in Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 394:3. Prisha notes this only applies according to the custom of ancient times when they were buried in vaults.

At end of Likutei Maharil, that the Maharil was dead for three days, then returned to life to live another 30 years.

3. 10 Common Characteristics Described in Modern-day Accounts:

  1. Out of the Body
  2. Feelings of Peace and Quiet
  3. Awareness of Surroundings
  4. The Spiritual Body
  5. Meeting Deceased Relatives and Friends
  6. The Dark Tunnel
  7. The Being of Light
  8. Review and Judgement
  9. Reaching The Border or Limit, and Return
  10. Change

    I.              Out of Body

      A.    Recent accounts

About a year ago, I was admitted to the hospital with heart trouble, and the next morning, lying in the hospital bed, I began to have a very severe pain in my chest. I pushed the button beside the bed to call for the nurses, and they came in and started working on me. I was quite uncomfortable lying on my back so I turned over and as I did I stopped breathing and my heart stopped beating. Just then I heard the nurses shout, “Code Pink! Code Pink!” As they were saying this, I could feel myself moving out of my body and sliding down between the mattress and the rail itself on the side of the bed. Actually it was as if I went through the rail down onto the floor. Then, I started rising upward, slowly. On my way out, I saw more nurses come running into the room; there must have been a dozen of them. My doctor happened to have been making his rounds in the hospital so they called him and I saw him come in too. I thought, “I wonder what he’s doing here.” I drifted on up past the light fixture – I saw it from the side and very distinctly – and then I stopped, floating right down below the ceiling, looking down. I felt almost as though I were a piece of paper that someone had blown up to the ceiling (25).

I watched them reviving me from up there! My body was lying down there stretched out on the bed, in plain view, and they were all standing around it. I heard one nurse say, “Oh my G-d, she’s gone,” while another one leaned down to give mouth-to mouth resuscitation. I was looking at the back of her head while she did this. I’ll never forget the way her hair looked; it was cut kind of short. Just then, I saw them roll this machine in there, and they put the shocks on my chest. When they did, I saw my whole body just jump right up off the bed, and I heard every bone in my body crack and pop. It was the most awful thing. As I saw them below banging on my chest and rubbing my arms and legs, I thought, “Why are they going to so much trouble? I’m just fine now.’


It was about two years ago, and I had just turned nineteen. I was driving a friend of mine home in the car, as I got to this particular intersection downtown, I stopped and looked both ways, but I didn’t see anything coming. I pulled on out into the intersection and as I did I heard my friend yell out at the top of his voice. When I looked I saw a blinding light, the headlights of a car that was speeding towards us. I heard this awful sound – the side of the car being crushed in – and there was just an instant during which I seemed to be going through darkness, an enclosed space. It was very quick. Then I was sort of floating about five feet above the street, about five yards away from the car, I’d say, and I heard the echo of the crash dying away. I saw people come running up and crowding around the car, and I saw my friend get out of the car, obviously in shock. I could see my own body in the wreckage among all those people, and could see them trying to get it out. My legs were all twisted and there was blood all over the place (27).


Boy, I surely didn’t realize that I looked like that! You know, I’m only used to seeing myself in pictures or from the front of a mirror, and both of these look flat. But all of a sudden there I – or my body – was and I could see it. I could definitely see it, full view, from about five feet away. It took me a few moments to recognize myself (29).

   II.            Peace and Quiet

      A.    Recent accounts

At the point of injury there was a momentary flash of pain, but then the pain vanished. I had the feeling of floating in a dark space. The day was bitterly cold, yet while I was in the blackness all I felt was warmth and the most comfort I have ever experienced. I remember thinking, “I must be dead.” (18)


I began to experience the most wonderful feelings. I couldn’t feel a thing in the world except peace, comfort, ease – just quietness. I felt that all my troubles were gone, and I thought to myself, “Well how quiet and peaceful, and I don’t hurt at all.” (18)


A man who “died” after wounds in Viet Nam says that as he was hit: There was a great attitude of relief. There was no pain, and I’ve never felt so relaxed. I was at ease and it was all good (19).

   III.            Aware of Surroundings

      A.    Recent accounts

I was in the hospital but they did not know what was wrong with me. So Dr. James, my doctor, sent me downstairs to the radiologist for a liver scan so they could find out. First, they tested this drug they were going to use on my arm, since I had a lot of drug allergies. But there was no reaction, so they went ahead. When they used it this time, I arrested on them. I heard the radiologist who was working on me go over to the telephone, and I heard very clearly as he dialed it. I heard him say, “Dr. James, I’ve killed your patient, Mrs. Martin.” And I knew I wasn’t dead. I tried to move or to let them know, but I couldn’t. When they were trying to resuscitate me, I could hear them tell how many c.c.’s of something to give me, but I didn’t feel the needles going in. I felt nothing at all when they touched me (16).


A woman patient of mine had cardiac arrest just before another surgeon and I were going to operate on her. I was right there, and I saw her pupils dilate. We tried for some time to resuscitate her, but weren’t having any success, so I thought she was gone. I told the other doctor who was working with me, “Let’s try one more time and then we’ll give up.” This time, we got her heart beating, and she came around. Later I asked her what she remembered of her “death”. She said she didn’t remember much about it, except that she did hear me say, “Let’s try one more time and then we’ll give up.” (17)

      B.    Sources (134-6)

Shabbos 152b, The deceased see, hear and know everything that occurs around them. According to one opinion this is until burial, another holds this is as long as the body is in tact.

Shabbos 153a, Rav asked of Rav Shemuel bar Shilas before his death that he should eulogize him fervently and bring the assembled to tears, and said that he would be there listening as well.

Shabbos 152a, The soul of the deceased mourns for the body seven days. Zohar, Chayei Sarah, 122b, The soul visits the body during the first seven days and mourns over its demise. Zohar, Vayechi, 218b, The soul travels between the grave and the house of mourning each of the seven days, and wails with the mourners.

    IV.            The Spiritual Body

      A.    Recent Accounts

            1.      Attempt to interact with surroundings

I saw them resuscitating me. It was really strange. I wasn’t very high; it was almost as if I was on a pedestal, but not above them to any great extent, just maybe looking over them. I tried talking to them but no one could hear me, nobody would listen to me. (34)

            2.      Invisible, non-solid

The doctors and nurses were pounding away on my body to try to get IV’s started and to get me back, and I kept trying to tell them, “Leave me alone. All I want is to be left alone. Quit pounding on me.” But they didn’t hear me. So I tried to move their hands to keep them from beating on my body, but nothing would happen. I couldn’t get anywhere. It was like – I don’t really know what happened, but I couldn’t move their hands. It looked like I was touching their hands and I tried to move them, yet when I would give it the stroke, their hands were still there. I don’t know whether my hand was going through it, around it, or what. I didn’t feel any pressure against their hands when I was trying to move them (34).


People were walking up from all directions to get to the wreck. I could see them, and I was in the middle of a very narrow walkway. Anyway, as they came by, they wouldn’t seem to notice me. They would just keep walking with their eyes straight ahead. As they came real close, I would try to turn around, to get out of their way, but they would just walk through me (35).

            3.      Some form and shape

My being felt as if it had density to it, almost, but not a physical density – kind of like, I don’t know, waves or something I guess. Nothing really physical, almost as if were charged, if you’d like to call it that. But it felt as if it had something to it…(38).


When I came out of the physical body, it was like I did come out of my body and go into something else. I didn’t think it was just nothing. It was another body…but not a regular human body. It’s a little bit different. It was not exactly like a human body. But it wasn’t any big glob of matter either. It had form to it but no colors (39).


I remember being wheeled into the operating room and the next few hours were the critical period. During that time, I kept getting in and out of my physical body, and I could see it from directly above. But, while I did, I was still in a body – not a physical body, but something I can best describe as an energy pattern. If I had to put it into words, I would say that it was transparent, a spiritual as opposed to a material being. Yet, it definitely had parts (40).

      B.    Sources (Nishmas Chaim 1:13)

Zohar, Parshas Vayechi speaks of tzelem or guf ha-dak: “All the souls that exist since the creation of the world are present in front of God even before they come into this world, just as they appear when they come into this world in the body of a person. Just as the body appears in this world, so the soul appears in front of God”.

Abarbanel (1460-1535), Mifa’alos Elokim 48:6, Souls, from the time of their first creation are connected to an ethereal, spiritual matter of a heavenly nature that is imperceptible to the sense of sight.

The soul never parts from this ethereal, spiritual matter, not before joining the body, not while in the body, nor after leaving the body.

Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi (1513-1586), Ma’aseh Breishis ch. 2, With skin and flesh did you clothe me (Job 10:11), Just as garments clothe the body, so the body clothes the soul, implying that the soul is body-like. It is through this spiritual body that the soul experiences bliss of suffering in the world to come.

Rabeinu Bachaye (app. 1050-1120), Vayechi, The ethereal body in which the soul is clothed…has substance but is extremely fine. In this way it sometimes appears in the form of a body, for example from Erev Shabbos to Erev Shabbos or from Yom Kippur to Yom Kippur. It floats around in the world according to the will of God, and appears to whom ever it chooses.

    V.            Meeting Deceased Relatives and Friends

      A.    Recent Accounts

I had this experience when I was giving birth to a child. The delivery was very difficult and I lost a lot of blood. The doctor gave me up and told my relatives that I was dying. However, I was quite alert during the whole thing, and even as I heard him say this, I felt myself coming to. As I did, I realized that all these people were there; almost in multitudes it seems, hovering around the ceiling of the room. They were all people I had known in my past life, but who had passed on before. I recognized my grandmother and a girl I had known in school, and many other relatives and friends. It seems that I mainly saw their faces and felt their presence. They all seemed pleased. It was a very happy occasion, and I felt they had come to protect or to guide me. It was almost as if I were coming home, and they were there to greet or to welcome me. All this time I had the feeling of everything light and beautiful. It was a beautiful and glorious moment (46).


While I was dead, in this void, I talked to people – and yet, I really couldn’t say that I talked to any bodily people. Yet, I had the feeling that there were people around me, and I could feel their presence, and could feel them moving. Every now and then, I would talk with one of them, but I couldn’t see them. And whenever I wondered what was going on, I would always get a thought back from one of them, that everything was alright, that I was dying but would be fine. So, my condition never worried me. I always got an answer back for every question that I asked. They didn’t leave my mind void (48).

      B.    Sources (124-8)

Brachos 28b, At the moment of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai’s death he said to [his assembled students], “Remove the vessels so that they will not become impure, and prepare a seat for [the soul of] Hezekiah the king of Judah who is coming.

Yerushalmi, Sota 9:16, Rabbi Eliezer, [Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai’s] student, commanded at the time of his own death, “Clear the courtyard on account of the impurity and prepare a seat for Rabbi Yochanan be Zakkai.” There are those that say that he saw what his master saw.

Kesuvos, 104a, When a righteous man departs from this world…G-d says, ‘Let the righteous men, the departed tzadikim, come from their resting places to go forth to meet him’.

Zohar, Ha’azinu 288a, When Ya’akov departed, Avraham and Yitzchak came to receive him. Avraham stood to his right, and Yitzchak to his left. Ya’akov was between them and the Shechina was in front of him.

Zohar, Idra Zuta, 288a, When R Shimon bar Yochai departed from the world, Rav Hamnuna Saba, Seventy Tzadikim and R Pinchas ben Yair came to greet him.

Zohar, VaYechi 217a, When a man’s soul departs, all his relatives and friends in the world of Truth accompany his soul and show it the place of delight and place of punishment. If he is righteous, he sees his place, and goes up to sit and take delight in the upper Eden of that world.

Zohar, ibid.

Rabbi Shimon lifted up his eyes and saw the Angel of Death running and dancing before Rabbi Yitzchak. Rabbi Shimon stood up, held Rabbi Yitzchak by the hand and said: I decree that whoever is used to come to me shall enter, and he who is not used to shall not come. Rabbi Yitzchak and Rabbi Yehuda came in. And he thus kept the Angel of Death remaining outside…

Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Yitzchak, Have you seen your father’s image today, or have you not? For we have learned that when a man departs from the world, his father and relatives are there with him, and he sees and recognizes them. And all those with whom he will dwell in the other world in the same chamber, all gather to be with him, and accompany his soul to its dwelling place.

Rabbi Yitzchak said: Until now I have not seen my father. Rabbi Shimon stood up and said: Master of the universe, we have a certain Rabbi Yitzchak with us, one of the seven eyes here; Behold, I hold him, give Him to me! A voice resounded saying…Behold, Rabbi Yitzchak is yours, and you shall come with him when you shall sit in your throne at the time you depart from the world.

    &VI.            The Dark Tunnel

      A.    Recent accounts

I had a very bad allergic reaction to local anesthetic, and I just quit breathing – I had respiratory arrest. The first thing that happened – it was real quick –was that I went through this dark, black vacuum at super speed. You could compare it to a tunnel, I guess. I felt like I was riding on a roller coaster train at an amusement park, going through this tunnel at tremendous speed (21).


I was in an utterly dark, black void. It is very difficult to explain, but I felt as if I was moving in a vacuum, just through blackness. Yet, I was quite conscious. It was like being in a cylinder with no air in it. It was a feeling of limbo, of being halfway here, and halfway somewhere else (22).


I was in a narrow v-shaped passage, like a trough, about the width of this chair. It just fit my body, and my hands and arms seemed to be down at my side. I went head first, and it was dark, dark as could be in there. I moved on through it, downward, and I looked up and saw a beautiful, polished door, with no knob. Around the edges of the door I could see a really brilliant light, with rays just streaming like everyone was really happy in there, and reeling around, moving around. It seemed like it was awfully busy in there.

      B.    Sources (141-3)

Zohar, Chayei Sarah, But Avraham looked at Adam, saw his shape, and lived. He saw a light shining from within the cave and a candle burning. Then he wanted to dwell in that cave, and his heart and desire were always there. Man sees Adam when he dies and passes from the world.

Vayechi, 250b, Come and behold: When Ya’akov entered the cave, all the perfumes of the Garden of Eden filled it. The cave was alight, for a candle burned there. When the patriarchs came to Ya’akov in Egypt to be with him, the candlelight was gone from the cave. When Ya’akov came into the cave, the candle returned…The souls of the righteous pass before the fathers inside the cave, so that they will awake and behold the seed they left in the world, and rejoice before the Holy One, blessed be He.

Zohar, Lech Lecha 81a, When the soul leaves this world, it enters the cave of Machpelah, where the opening leading to the Garden of Eden is located. Then it meets Adam and the Patriarchs who are there. If the soul is meritorious, they rejoice with it and open all the openings so the soul can enter Gan Eden. If not, it is pushed outside.

Zohar, Tosefes 303b, All humankind, righteous and wicked, pass through the air and behold Adam before going each soul to its own place, for good or for bad.

    VII.          The Being of Light

      A.    Recent Accounts

I heard the doctors say I was dead, and that’s when I began to feel as if I were tumbling, actually kind of floating, through this blackness, which was some kind of enclosure. There are not really words to describe this. Everything was very black, except that, way off from me, I could see this light. It was a very, very brilliant light, but not too large at first. It grew larger as I came nearer and nearer to it.

I was trying to get to that light at the end, because I felt that it was Jesus, and I was trying to reach that point. It was not a frightening experience. It was more or less a pleasant thing. For being a Christian, I immediately connected the light with Jesus…I said to myself, “If this is it, if I am to die, than I know who waits for me at the end, there in that light.” (52)


I floated… up into this pure crystal clear light, an illuminating white light. It was so beautiful and so bright, so radiant, but it didn’t hurt my eyes. It’s not any kind of light you can describe on earth. I didn’t actually see a person in this light, and yet it has a special identity, it definitely does. It is a light of perfect understanding and perfect love.

The thought came from the light to my mind, “Do you love me?” this was not exactly in the form of a question, but I guess the connotation of what the light said was, “If you do love me than go back and complete what you began in your life.” And all during this time, I felt as though I was surrounded by an overwhelming love and compassion (53).


I knew I was dying and that there was nothing I could do about it, because no one could hear me. I was out of my body, there’s no doubt about it, because I could see my own body there on the operating table. My soul was out! All this made me feel very bad at first, but then, this really bright light came. It seemed a little dim at first, but then it was this huge beam. It was just a tremendous amount of light, nothing like a bright flash light, it was just too much light. And it gave off heat, I felt a warm sensation.

It was a bright yellowish white – more white. It was tremendously bright. I just can’t describe it. It seemed that it covered everything, yet it didn’t prevent me from seeing everything around me – the operating room, the doctors and nurses, everything. I could see clearly and it wasn’t blinding.

At first, when the light came, I wasn’t sure what was happening, but then it asked, it kind of asked me if I was ready to die. It was like talking to a person, but a person wasn’t there. The light is what was talking to me, but in a voice. Now, I think that the voice that was talking to me actually realized that I wasn’t ready to die. You know, it was just kind of testing me more than anything else. Yet, from the moment the light spoke to me, I felt really good – secure and loved. The love that comes from it is just unimaginable, indescribable (54).

      B.    Sources

    1.      Identity of the light

Breishis Raba 3:4 (117), The Holy One Blessed be He wrapped himself in light as in a garment and radiated His glory from one end of the universe to the other.

Midrash Raba, Pinchas, 21:17 (117), the ministering angels who are like burning fire, from what are they sustained? From the light of the Shechina. When they gaze on the incredibly intense light of the Shechina, they are filled with its light which is their soul and they are revitalized.

Megilla 19b, If there remained in the cave where Moshe and Eliyahu had the Shechina appear to them even a small additional portion like the width of a needle, there is no way they could have remained alive because of the light of the Shechina.

      2.      Seeing the light upon deat

Bamidbar Raba 14:22 (114), on the verse, “A man cannot see me and live” (Shemos 33:20), When he is living he can’t see the Shechina, but upon death he sees.

Pirkei d’R Eliezer 34 (114), the soul does not depart from the body with out seeing the Shechina. Meaning, seeing the light of the Shechina is an inseparable part of death.

Zohar, Metzora 53a, When it comes time for a person to die, the soul doesn’t leave the body until the Shechina appears and the soul, in its desire to re-unite with the Shechina goes forth toward the light.

Midrash Shochar Tov, 17 and 22, Even the wicked merit to see the Shechina at the time of their death, particularly if they gave charity.

    VIII.        Review and Judgement

      A.    Recent Accounts

When the light appeared, the first thing he said to me was, “What do you have to show me that you’ve done with your life?” or something to this effect. And that’s when these flashbacks started. I thought, “Gee what’s going on?” because all of a sudden I was back in my early childhood. And from then on, it was like I was walking from the time of my very early life, on through each year of my life, right up to the present…

The things that flashed back came on the order of my life, and they were so vivid. The scenes were just like you walked outside and saw them, completely three-dimensional, and in color. And they moved. It wasn’t like I was watching it from my perspective at the time it that it happened, rather it was like I saw somebody else in a movie, yet it was me…

He disappeared as soon he asked me what I had done, and the flashbacks started, and yet I knew he was there the entire time, because I felt his presence, and because he made comments here and there. He was trying to show me something in each one of these flashbacks. It’s not like he was trying to see what I had done – he knew already – but he was picking out these certain flashbacks of my life and putting them in front of me so that I would have to recall them…

All through this, he kept stressing the importance of loving others…he pointed out to me that I should try to do things for others, to try my best. There wasn’t any accusation in any of this, though. When he came across times that I had been selfish, his attitude was only that I had been learning from them too. He seemed very interested in things concerning knowledge too. He kept on pointing out things that had to do with learning, and he said that even when he comes back for me (because by then he had told me that I was going back) that there will always be a quest for knowledge. He said that it was a continuous process, so I got the feeling that it goes on after death (56).


[The whole situation developed very suddenly. I had had a slight fever and had not felt well for about two weeks, but this night I became rapidly ill and I felt much worse. I was lying in bed and I remember trying to reach over to my wife and say that I was very sick, but I found it was impossible to move. Beyond that, I found myself in a completely black void, and my whole life kind of flashed in front of me. It started back when I was six or seven years old, and I remembered a good friend I had in grammar school. I went from grammar school to high school to college, then to dental school, and then right on into practicing dentistry.

I knew I was dying, and I remember thinking that I wanted to provide for my family. I was distraught that I was dying and that there were certain things that I had done in my life that I regretted. And other things that I regretted that I had left undone…]

This flashback was in the form of mental pictures, I would say, but they were much more vivid than normal ones. I saw only the high points, but it was so rapid it was like looking through a volume of my entire life and being able to do it within seconds. It just flashed before me like a motion picture that goes tremendously fast, yet I was able to see it, and able to comprehend it.

I didn’t see anything else during this experience. There was just blackness, except for the images that I saw. Yet, I definitely felt the presence of a very powerful, completely loving being there with me through all this experience.

It is really interesting. When I recovered, I could tell everyone about every part of my life, in great detail, because what I had been through. It’s quite an experience, but it’s difficult to put into words, because it happens so rapidly, yet it’s so clear (61).


While I was serving in Viet Nam, I received wounds, and I later died from them, yet through it all I knew exactly what was going on. I was hit with six rounds of machine-gun fire, and as it happened I wasn’t upset at all. In my mind, I actually felt relieved when I was wounded. I felt completely at ease, and it was not frightening.

At the point of impact, my life began to become a picture in front of me, and it seemed I could go back to the time when I was still a baby, and the pictures seemed to progress through my whole life.

I could remember everything, everything was so vivid. It was so clear in front of me. It shot right by me, from the earliest things I can remember right on up to the present, and it all happened within a short time. And it was not anything bad at all. I went through it with no regrets, no derogatory feelings about myself at all. The best thing I can think of to compare it is a series of pictures, like slides. It was just like someone clicking off slides in front of me, very quickly (62).

      B.    Sources (147-154)

Amos 4:13, “Behold He fashions mountains and creates the wind, He tells a man what he spoke.” Rashi, All of a person’s deeds are reviewed before him at the time he departs.

Avos 2:1, “Know who is above you, an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all of your deeds are recorded.” Meiri: a person will have to account for all of deeds, good or bad.

Avos 3:1, “Know before whom you’ll need to make reckoning and accounting in the future. Chida, Nitzutzei Oros: this occurs immediately upon onset of death.

Hesped of Rav Shach for the Steipler: When a person dies, there passes before his eyes his whole life, every day, every hour, every minute and every second. Everything is recorded and his whole life appears before him.

Zohar, Naso, 126b, During that period while he lays bound in the chains of the King, in raising his eyes, he sees how two beings come to him. They write all that he did in this world and every word that emerged from his lips. He gives accounts about everything and it is recorded before him. And he admits all these things.

    IX.          Reaching the Border or Limit, and Return

      A.    Recent Accounts

            1.      Ordered to Return

I heard a voice, not a man’s voice, but like a hearing beyond the physical senses, telling me what I had to dogo backand I felt no fear of getting back into my physical body (48).


I had a heart attack, and I found myself in a black void, and I knew I had left my physical body behind. I knew I was dying, and I thought, “God, I did the best I knew how at the time I did it. Please help me.”  Immediately I was moved out of that blackness, through a pale gray, and I just went on, gliding and moving swiftly, and in front of me, in the distance, I could see a gray mist, and I was rushing towards it. It seemed that I just couldn’t get to it fast enough to satisfy me, and as I got closer to it I could see through it. Beyond the mist, I could see people, and their forms were just like they were on earth…The whole thing was permeated with the most gorgeous light – a living, golden yellow glow…

As I approached more closely, I felt certain that I was going through that mist. It was such a wonderful, joyous feeling; there are just no words in human language to describe it. Yet, it wasn’t my time to go through the mist, because instantly from the other side appeared my Uncle Carl, who had died many years earlier. He blocked my path saying, “Go back. Your work on earth has not been completed. Go back now.” (68)

      2.      Decided to Return

I wondered whether I should stay there, but as I did I remembered my family, my three children and my husband. Now, this is the part that is hard to get across: When I had this wonderful feeling, there in the presence of that light, I really didn’t want to come back. But I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I knew that I had a duty to my family. So I decided to try to come back (71).


I was out of my body, and I realized that I had to make a decision. I knew that I could not stay out of my physical body for a very long time, so – well, for others this is very hard to understand, but for me then it was perfectly clear, I knew that I had to decide whether to move on out or to get back in.

It was wonderful over there on the other side, and I kind of wanted to stay. But knowing that I had something good to do on earth was just as wonderful in a way. So, I was thinking, “Yes, I must go back and live.” And I got back into my physical body. I almost feel as though I stopped the bleeding myself. At any rate, I began to recover after that (72).

      3.      Brought back by the living

I was with my elderly aunt during her last illness, which was very drawn out. I helped take care of her, and all that time everyone in the family was praying for her to regain her health. She stopped breathing several times, but they brought her back. Finally, one day she looked at me and said, “Joan, I have been over there, over to the beyond and it is beautiful over there. I want to stay, but I can’t as long as you keep praying for me to stay with you. Your prayers are holding me over here. Please don’t pray anymore.” We did all stop, and shortly after that she died (74).


The doctor had already said that I was gone, but I lived through it. Yet, the experience I had been through was so joyous, I had no bad feelings at all. As I came back, I opened my eyes, and my sister and husband saw me. I could see their relief, and tears were pouring from their eyes. I could see that it was a relief to them that I had survived. I felt as if I had been called back – magnetized back - through the love of my sister and my husband. Since then, I have believed that other people can draw you back (74).


I didn’t want to go back, but I had no choice, and immediately I was back in my body. I felt that horrible pain in my chest, and I heard my little boy crying, “God, bring my mommy back to me.” (68)

    B.    Sources

      1.      Ordered back

Rosh Hashanah 17a (100), Rav Huna was very ill. Rav Papa came to visit him. When he saw how sick Rav Huna was and that he was about to die, he told his attendants to prepare the burial shrouds and make the other funeral arrangements. Rave Huna died, and then later come back to life. Rav Papa asked him what he saw while he was dead. Rav Huna replied that he heard God pronounce to the heavenly court, “Since Rav Huna was forgiving of others in his lifetime and didn’t demand strict judgement, we shall not judge him harshly and he shall return to life.”

      2.      Brought back by others

Zohar, Balak, 204-06 (102),

On the day that R’ Yosi of Pekiin died, his friends R’ Elazar, R Abba and others were walking on the way. Suddenly a raven appeared to them and crowed violently before them. R Elazar understood that it was telling them that R Yosi of Pekiin had died, and that there was no one to bury him.

When they arrived at his house, they found his young child crying with his lips on his father’s lips and shouting, Master of the world, it says in the Torah: “If a bird’s nest chance to be before you…you shall surely let the mother go…and then take the young” (Devarim 22:6). There were two children to my father and mother, myself and my younger sister. Our mother died, and now You should have taken us. Instead, You have taken my father, who was our protection, and you took him away from the children. Where is the justice in the Torah? Rabbi Elazar and his friends cried on account of the grief and tears of the child.

Suddenly a pillar of fire separated them from the departed, but the child was still attached to the lips of his father and did not separate. Rabbi Elazar said, the pillar of fire has separated either because the Holy One, blessed be He, wishes to perform a miracle and revive him, or He desires that no one else deal with him other than his son. However, I cannot bear to see the child’s tears or to hear what he is saying.

While still sitting, they heard a voice that said, Blessed are you, Rabbi Yosi that the speech of the young kid and his tears rose to the throne of the Holy King and pronounced the sentence…Behold, they have added 22 years to your life, so you will have time to teach the young kid, the perfect and beloved, before the Holy One, blessed be He.

Rabbi Elazar and the friends rose, and did not allow anyone to stay in the house. They immediately noticed the pillar of fire was gone. Rabbi Yosi opened his eyes and the child was still glued with his lips to his lips. Rabbi Elazar said, Blessed is our lot that we witnessed the resurrection of the dead eye to eye. They approached him and the child fell asleep. They said, blessed is your lot, Rabbi Yosi, and blessed is the Merciful, who performed a miracle for your sake due to the crying and weeping of your son. Life was added to you because of his true and heartfelt speech that reached to the gates of heaven and due to his pleading and tears.

Rabbi Yosi said to them, Friends, I was not given permission to reveal what I observed in that world, until twelve years time. However, the 365 tears that my son spilled came into account before the Holy King. And I tell you friends, at the time he said that verse and cried out with those words, 300,000 benches that were in the Yeshiva of heaven were shaken. All the souls stood before the Holy King and asked for compassion towards me, and guaranteed for me that I would not sin.

Those utterances of my son were pleasing to Him, and the way in which he gave up his soul for me. A guardian was present there, who said, Master of the world…May it please You that through the merit of the Torah, and the merit of that child who was ready to give his soul for his father’s sake, You should have mercy on him and he should be saved.

    X.            Change

      A.    Recent Accounts

But after this thing happened to me, I wanted to know more. At the time, though, I didn’t think there was a person who would know anything about this, because I had never been out of this little world that I was in. I didn’t know anything about psychology, or anything like that. All I knew is that I felt liked I aged overnight after this happened, since it opened up a whole new world for me which I never knew could possibly exist. I kept thinking, “There’s so much I’ve got to find out.” In other words, there’s more to life than Friday night movies and the football game. And there’s more to me that I don’t even know about. And then I started thinking about “what is the limit of the human and of the mind?” It just opened me up to a whole new world (82).


But since I died, all of a sudden, right after my experience, I started wondering whether I had been doing the things I had done because they were good, or because they were good for me. Before, I just reacted off the impulse. But now I run things through my mind first, nice and slow. Everything seems to have to go through my mind first and be digested.

I try to do things that have more meaning, and that makes my mind and soul feel better. And I try not to be biased, and not to judge people. I want to do things because they are good, not because they are good for me. And it seems that the understanding I have of things is much better. I feel like this is because of what happened to me, because of the places I went and the things I saw in this experience (83).


I was more conscious of my mind at the time than of that physical body. The mind was the most important part, instead of the shape of the body. And before, all my life, it had been exactly reversed. The body was my main interest and what was going on in my mind, well, it was just going on, and that’s all. But after this happened, my mind is the main point of attraction, and the body is second – it is only something to encase my mind (85).

      B.    Sources

Zohar, Balak 206, Rav Yosef of Pekiin,

… And myself, my friends, during that period when I left the world my spirit was gone and departed immediately until a little later when the Holy One, blessed be He, brought me back to life. During that time, my body was dead. During the time when my son began with these utterances, his soul escaped and flew to meet my soul that was rising from her immersion, and re-entered wherever it did. There, they sentenced and judged it and I was given 22 years of life for the sake of my son’s utterances and tears. From here on, I need to strive regarding the things of that world, and I am no longer to strive after matters of this world. After seeing what I saw, the Holy One, blessed be He, wishes me not to forget anything.


Now that we have had a glimpse into the life after life, may we place less emphasis on the things of this world, and strive regarding the things of that world. Amen.

by  Rabbi Ullman
Posted in: Jewish Beliefs & Philosophy