The confrontation with the harsh reality of mortality, whether through aging, a health crisis, or an encounter with death, makes us wonder whether our life has any meaning.
It is during these existential crises that our tradition reaches out to us with solace and comfort, asserting emphatically that while our bodies may die, our soul is eternal, and this world is but one step in its journey.
For death is not an end. Nor is it a mere passageway to the next stage of existence. Our knowledge of death can become a means of inspiring life, and ensuring that our moments here are lived to the fullest.
This course is not a philosophical one, but an experiential one. It does not attempt to prove the existence of a soul, nor of the afterlife, nor of heaven and hell and reincarnation. Instead, it shares the intuitive truths that have inspired generations of Jews to live more fully and to face death fearlessly. It explains how those who left this world are not lost to us, nor us to them. It allows us the opportunity to resolve what death has left unresolved, and thereby to find peace and closure.
We invite you to discover the odyssey of your soul. Find out where it came from, where it is going, and what it is doing right now. Explore the limits of mortality, and how we can better appreciate the true life of those who are living. as well as those who have passed on.
Know yourself, discover your purpose, and acquire the tools to navigate life's challenges.
Meet the Pilot
To talk about death, we first have to talk about life, and the soul that is the source of life. In this lesson, we examine the classic sources to develop the idea of the soul and its properties, and examine the purpose of the soul in this world.
Before You Were Born
We establish the soul as the "real self," eternal in its existence. We look at the origin of the soul and the manner in which it prepares for its descent into the world, as well as Jewish customs of pregnancy and birth designed to aid the soul in its transition.
Death and Beyond
In this lesson, we examine death from the perspective of the soul. We look at the Jewish customs of death that aid the soul in its transition out of the physical world. We talk about Gan Eden, the pleasure the soul receives as a result of its positive actions in this world, as well as the process of Gehinom that is meant to cleanse the soul so that it can reunite with its source. The lesson also addresses the ultimate state of the soul when it returns to this world during the era of the Resurrection of the Dead.
The soul usually requires many lifetimes to complete its mission. Each lifetime adds to the experience of the soul so that currently we are able to draw upon the lessons of previous lifetimes. This knowledge allows us navigate our life and mission with greater hope and confidence. We will also consider the lives of famous Jewish personalities, and see how the mystics have explained the events of their lives through the lens of their past lives.
Once a soul has left this world, despite its exalted spiritual place, it can no longer perform mitzvot, and we become the hands and feet of the departed. Our actions here cause great delight for the souls above. This lesson discusses the customs of Kaddish, Yahrtzeit, Yizkor, and visiting the grave. It also discusses the ways that departed souls may communicate with us, and pray or intercede on our behalf.
Toward a More Meaningful Life
By understanding the different stages of the soul's journey, we can live our own lives more fully. Each day is, in fact, a microcosm of the soul's journey, and the current moment is pivotal in launching us towards a fuller future. If you had one day left to live, how would you spend it? And why aren't you living as if today were your last day? We end our course with a morning meditation to inspire you to make the most of each day.