For thousands of years, people have been fascinated by death and the events that follow. Ancient Egyptians built elaborate pyramids to usher their pharaohs into the Kingdom of the Dead. Norsemen believed in Valhalla, a heavenly dwelling place for warriors who died bravely in battle. Judeo-Christian religions believe in an afterlife in the World to Come. In many of the Eastern religions, the afterlife does not consist of a place, but instead involves reincarnation into a new body. Today, a quick Internet search for “life after death” produces over two million “hits,” - our interest in the topic has not diminished over the years.
When we are young, the thought of death is far away, unless a beloved relative or pet dies. As we age, however, the thought starts creeping into our consciousness. What happens to us after we die? Is this life all there is? We eagerly listen to accounts of people who have died and then been revived, hoping for some clue to the next chapter in our existence. While these experiences have captured the imagination of many, do they really give us any direct information? Once again, we must fall back to a state of “belief,” since science has been unable to come up with a way to explore these phenomena.
The wisdom of Kabbalah tells us that it is possible for man to transcend life and death, to see his past lives and feel his future states. This is because the body is simply a physical manifestation of the true being, the soul. The Kabbalist Baruch Ashlag (Rabash) was once asked how a person who has attained the spiritual relates to life and death. He answered: "I see that today you came to my lesson in a white, new, nice shirt, and later you will change it. You know that you have to change your shirt. This is exactly how a person who exists within his soul looks at his body, knowing that the time will come when it will have to be changed."
The soul is eternal, but its dressing will change. Once we understand that, we will have no more concern for the passing of the body than we have for the shirt that is sent to the laundry. That which is important remains.
If this is the case, then what is the purpose of this body and our existence in this life? In spirituality, we are in full contact with the indescribable force of love that was the initial thought of Creation. In that state, we are no more able to choose to be there than a piece of iron can choose not to be attracted by a magnet. Yet the purpose of Creation is for man to choose to be in this state. This seems to be an impossible situation: we must choose to be with the Creator, but if we are near Him, we have absolutely no choice since we are overwhelmed by His love!
The solution to this quandary is very simple: we must be placed in a situation where the Creator is completely concealed from us. This gives us the opportunity to consciously seek that which is hidden – or to choose not to. That state of total concealment from the Creator is what we perceive as the physical world and these precious bodies of ours.
While clothed in these bodies, the soul is given opportunities to experience different states and pursue any of the desires that surface in man – desires for family, wealth, power, and respect, to name a few. For many incarnations, we do not even perceive this process. We live our lives, experiencing the joys and sorrows that life brings us. At some point, however, we begin to undergo a fundamental change. Things that satisfied us in the past no longer seem quite as important as they used to. We begin to ask questions: Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Why do we have to endure so much suffering in this world?
At this point, we are ready to begin our search for the Creator in earnest. During the search, we will try many different paths. Some will fill us for a lifetime while others quickly turn into dead ends. Each step along the way teaches us something about ourselves and about the goal that we seek.
Eventually, during one of our lifetimes, we find the path of Kabbalah, which can provide us with a map to our destination. Rather than a physical journey, we begin an inner voyage of discovery and transformation. With each revelation, we become more attuned to the love that awaits us. We unite with other souls who have undertaken the same journey. In time, we realize that we have reached our destination – we have come home. Death will now have no meaning, for we now dwell in eternity.
Bnei Baruch, http://www.kabbalah.info/ is the largest group of Kabbalists in Israel, sharing the wisdom of Kabbalah with the entire world. Study materials in over 25 languages are based on authentic Kabbalah texts that were passed down from generation to generation.