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Near-Death Experiences and Judaism
By Kevin R. Williams, B.Sc.

The ancient Hebrews imagined the universe as a three-tiered cosmos of heaven, Earth, and underworld. Heaven was reserved for God and the angels; living human beings occupied the middle world; and the spirits of the dead resided beneath the Earth in "She'ol." The only stories in Hebrew scriptures, besides Daniel, that refer to afterlife notions are the story of Elijah's bodily ascent to heaven. Malachi describes the reincarnation of Elijah as one of the signs of the Messiah's arrival. Indeed, it is reasonably certain that reincarnation was not an alien concept to the Hebrews. An orthodox sect of Judaism, called Hasidic Judaism, professes a belief in reincarnation. Also, ancient Jewish mysticism taught the reality of reincarnation in the Kabbalah. In contemporary Judaism, the orthodox embraced the doctrine of resurrection, while the non-orthodox often accepted the notion of an immortal soul. Many secular and Reform Jews view themselves as part of the tradition of Judaism, without adhering to any sort of afterlife belief.

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