Baha'i News -- Differing perspectives on life after death
||Saturday, September 21, 2002
Differing perspectives on life after death
Rabbi Yakov Travis, assistant professor at
Siegal College of Judaic Studies, presented the Jewish view of life after death at an interfaith forum.
By STEPHANIE GARBER, Staff Reporter
In anticipation of Cleveland Public Theater's world premiere production, "Blue Sky Transmission: A Tibetan Book of the Dead," a
series of free public events were held at various locations around Cleveland.
For the past year, 14 people, under the guidance of
executive director James Levin, have worked on the play's creation, the central theme of which is death and the afterlife.
One of the
events offered through the theater was an interfaith discussion of the afterlife held at Cleveland Public Library on Sept. 4. Five religious
leaders, including a panelist, spoke about the tenets of their respective faith regarding the afterlife.
Ann Warren, western in her
appearance but Eastern in her belief in Buddhism, began the evening's discussion. She pointed out that the different practices of Buddhism
have different beliefs as to what happens after life.
Those who believe in an afterlife feel, "A good life means a good
death." Reincarnation is a possibility but, "it's not always good." Someone whose life was less than exemplary may return as
"a pig in a bad Calcutta slum."
"Death is just a stage in life," said Imam Ramez Islam Bouli, a Moslem. He
compared earthly life to the comfort a baby experiences prior to birth. In the mother's womb, the baby is comfortable, warm and safe. When
it's time to leave what it perceives as an idyllic existence, the baby is upset. In the same respect, our human nature causes us to cling to
this world, which is all we know.
Pastor Kate Huey of Pilgrim Church (Protestant) believes that we are limited by our finite
imaginations as to what our souls will encounter after we die. "One thing's for certain - eternity won't be boring," she
Bahai, said Dr. Daryush Hagigi, follows the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, and Bah'a
u'Ilah, the founder of the Bahai religion. True life, he says, is not the life of the flesh but of the spirit. "An individual who has
believed in God deeply, sincerely and honestly is crowned with immortality."
Incorporating a generous amount of wit and deep
philosophical beliefs into his talk, Rabbi Yakov Travis, assistant professor, Siegal College of Judaic Studies, and director of Ruach
Cleveland, said he was "astounded" to learn that many Jews don't believe in the afterlife. Often, he said, we frame our beliefs
against those of Christianity because it's the dominant religion in our culture. "We feel if they believe it, we don't," he added
with a laugh.
The Hebrew scriptures don't dwell on the afterlife, Travis explains. The Jewish focus is on this world and the concept
of tikkun olam (repair of the world). But there is a concept of afterlife in Jewish tradition, and Judaism has words for heaven and hell.
According to Jewish belief, there are stages of transition after death. One is a sense of shame when the soul realizes the potential
it could have attained during life. That burning shame could be the Jewish perception of Hell. The soul feels naked and ashamed, like Adam
and Eve did after they transgressed.
On the other hand, explains Travis, the good deeds a person does weave a garment to cover that
person. Depending on how one lived one's life, that garment could be ragged, dirty, or beautiful and whole.
The idea of reincarnation
also exists in Jewish mysticism. "This could perhaps help an individual whose garment was not all together in a previous life,"
"If you don't get it right," warned Travis with a smile, "you're going to have to come back."
©Copyright 2002, Cleveland Jewish News
Page last updated/revised 020921
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page