Afterlife: After the Bridge of Life

Question

Dear Rabbi, I hope you can help me. I have a good friend who refuses to believe in anything he can’t see. Specifically, he claims he wants to believe in an “Afterlife” but can’t rationalize it. Any advice? Thank you!

12 months

Answers

  1. I have had discussions with many people who think like your friend – intelligent and good people, who just can’t accept the existence of anything that can’t be sensed or detected with our modern and sophisticated means. There are numerous approaches to this issue of “belief” in an existence that doesn’t seem to fit into a rational way of thinking in our modern world, but I have found the following idea from the book “The Bridge of Life” to be most effective. It is a powerful parable and something I think that’s worth discussing with your friend and also pondering on your own as I do.

    Suppose that there were twin brothers lying together in the womb who could think and ask each other what would happen to them once they left their mother’s womb. They would not be able to form any conception whatsoever of what awaited them – of all their eyes would see and their ears hear here on earth. Let us imagine that one of them believed in the tradition which he had received, that there was a future life beyond the womb, while the other, a “rational” being, would only accept what his own intelligence could grasp and he, accordingly, would only acknowledge the existence of what he experienced, of “this world” alone. The two would disagree and argue, very much as men do on Earth – some believing that man continues to live; others denying that man has any life other than in this world of the present. Suppose that the “believing” brother were to repeat what had been transmitted to him, that with their emergence from the womb they would enter a new and more specious realm, that they would eat through their mouths, see distant objects with their eyes, and hear with their ears, that their legs would straighten, that they would stand erect and traverse vast distances on a gigantic nurturing earth, replete with oceans, rivers, etc., while above them would stretch a sky with its starry hosts. The other, who only believed in what he could sense, would jeer at his brother’s naiveté in indulging in such fantasies. He would retort that only a fool would believe all of this nonsense that makes no sense to the rational mind. The more the “believer” would elaborate on the variegated features they would encounter in this world, the more would the “rational” brother mock and ridicule him.

    The believing brother would ask, “What then my enlightened brother, do you believe is in store for us when we leave the womb?”

    Simple and obvious. Once this enclosure opens and you are torn away from this world where your food and drink are provided, you will fall into an abyss from which there is no return. You might as well never have existed at all”, the ‘rational’ brother would reply.

    In the heat of their argument, the womb suddenly opens. The “naïve” brother slips and falls outside. Remaining within, the other brother is shattered by the “tragedy” that has overtaken his brother. “Brother, where are you? How did you manage to fall to your destruction? Your folly that these contractions were birth pangs caused your downfall. That is why you did not clutch at anything to stop yourself.” As he moans the misfortune, his ears catch the cry of his brother and he trembles. To him this spells the end, the last gasp of his expiring brother… Outside, at that very moment, joy and celebration fill the home of the newly born baby: “Mazeltov, mazeltov, a baby…we have a son!”
    Just as the life of the embryo merely constitutes the transition to a broader and more exciting life, so, to an even greater extent, is life on Earth merely the prelude to a more fascinating, glorious life, which man, confined with his “puny” body and with limited perception is incapable of conceiving. The Afterlife.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team