Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Hereafter

I went to see the new Matt Kamon movie "Hereafter." Clint Eastwood directed it. Damon plays a pyschic who when he touches the hands of another person can see into the Hereafter and tell the person what  their deceased loved is saying to the living individual. He sees this unique talent as a curse and tries to give it up striving for a normal life. The other two subplots show a french television news caster who survived a tsunammi and who died but was able to be resuscitated back to life. She is on a journey to understand the hereafter. The other story is a boy who loses his twin brother and is searching for a way to communicate with his deceased brother. At the end of the movie, Damon meets the woman and falls in love and then meets the boy and channels his brother's messages to move on with his life. All live happily ever after.
The Hereafter reflects an underlying message in religion which is what happens after I die? It is a timeless question we wrestle with throughout our lives. I once heard the great sage Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel respond to this question by saying that when it comes to the Hereafter, "Its God's business." Traditional Judaism believes in the Hereafter and has many different images that describe it. But Judaism does not advocate one particular way of thinking about the Hereafter. We believe in resurrection of the dead even though liberal Judaism does not focus on it like traditional Judaism does.
I too have struggled with this question all my life. I remember visiting the grave of John Kennedy at Arlington cemetary as an 8 year old when I first  thought about it. It scared me then because it was at that moment that I realized that I too would die one day.
As a rabbi I have buried many and washed bodies in the traditional ritual of tahara. It really comes down to a matter of faith. I have never seen any proof positive of the existance of a Hereafter so I just live with that hope despite the fact that I cannot comprehend it.
I fully respect the fact that people need to believe in it and that many religions have very active concepts of the Hereafter in their religious systems. That is fine.  Our rational way of thinking debunks the existance of the Hereafter but the emotional side holds onto the hope that maybe just maybe there is something afterwards. Maybe we need that hope even though our purpose for living is to do the best we can to live ethical lives.
I just don't think it is my right to take away a person's hope even if I am sceptical of the existence of the hereafter.
I do not believe that the Hereafter  is a heaven and a hell. Yes, I think about it and wonder what if I am wrong? But I know that there are some issues out of my control and this is one of them. So I advise; don't sweat the things we can't control.

1 comment:

rabbi arthur segal said...

shalom Rebbe Brad: nice post. didn't see the movie yet. too swamped. lol.

our Chazel teach that all Jews have a share in the world to come. Further they teach that the righteous of all nations, ie religions, have a share as well.

we are not to be like workers, working for a wage, ie people doing good, so that we can be allowed into 'heaven.'

we are to live our lives as honest, and as kind, and as loving, and as humans with faults that we can work on correcting, and leave heaven and the here -after, olam ha ba, to ha Shem.

Many blessings and keep on blogging, Rebbe Brad!

(i will be rabbi-ing out of state and out of usa for a spiritual thanksgiving and chanukah and some lectures. hope to see you before the end of 2010).

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Arthur Segal