Most of us at one time or another have wondered about an afterlife. Can this world be all that there is? If there is an afterlife, what is it like? How can we get there? How long is eternity?
These questions and more might seem to fall under the category of philosophical discussion. However, Jonathan Morgenstern presents these deep questions with their answers in his well-written and easily understandable book, Afterlife -The Jewish View: Where Are We Headed? As he writes, “Making [the] mental shift from seeing death as the end of life to seeing it as the beginning of eternal life can have a profound impact on a person.”
A lawyer and marketing executive by trade, Morgenstern wrote this book as a labor of love for his departed father, Arthur B. Morgenstern. Before his untimely death, the older Morgenstern began to study the classical Jewish sources on the afterlife when a family member died and was cremated.
Arthur knew that cremation was not a Jewish way to treat the deceased. Yet, his limited education on the matter could not stop his relatives from doing this. Distraught, he took upon himself to study the matter extensively with Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky, a respected scholar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Arthur hoped that through a clear understanding of the Jewish views on death, burial, the afterlife, reincarnation, revival of the dead and more, he could better present the matter to uninformed people and enhance the respect due to someone who passes on.
Unfortunately, Arthur passed on himself after a brief illness. His son, Jonathan, took up the mantle and wrote this fascinating, informative and readable book.
In Afterlife, Morgenstern takes a 3,000-year tradition and presents it in a modern day text for all to understand. With inspirational descriptions of the Jewish view on such esoteric concepts as the purpose of life, reincarnation, who am I really?, the world of souls, the messianic era, resurrection, and the world to come – including the Jewish view of heaven and hell – Morgenstern is to be commended for bringing these important, yet often overlooked, topics to the forefront of people’s consciousness.
Written for the layperson, Afterlife includes footnotes for those who choose to refer to the original sources. Clear subtitles and charts, as well as strong analogies, ensure that the information is easily understood.
Jonathan Morgenstern has done a tremendous service explaining the normative Jewish view of what happens to us after we die. As he notes in the book, “Please check all previous knowledge about the Afterlife that comes from movies, popular books, and television at the front door.” I would add, “and perhaps some of our theological education as well.” This book will surely answer many of your most pressing questions and might even get you to ask a few new ones.
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