Journey to Heaven, Is it The Next World?

by Batya Medad

It has taken me a long time to read Leila Leah Bronner’s Journey to Heaven, but that’s my fault, not hers.  Most of my weekday reading is either on the computer or for my Bible studies.

I was very anxious to get started on Bronner’s book, because I’m very curious about The Next World,  our “life” after death.  It’s not my specialty.  From my limited knowledge I’ve been under the impression that the next world is when we pay the real price for our sins and get proper rewards for our good.  I was looking for some confirmation.

Journey to Heaven isn’t that sort of book.  Bronner’s book is more academic than spiritual or emotional.  She brings all sorts of texts, not all are Jewish, to explain what happens after death according to Judaism.  I suggest watching these two youtube videos to hear what Bronner has to say.  She really is fascinating.

Bronner’s book is very well researched.  The first part was less interesting for me, much too much like Biblical criticism and less Jewish.  I must admit that certain references, which contradicted traditional Jewish teaching almost had me put down the book and stop reading it. Bronner wrote about non-Jewish texts and sources, even offering the idea that Biblical books like Daniel were written well after Biblical times.  I understand that this is perfectly acceptable in the academic world, but it’s not the type of studies I am interested in.

The second part of the book was much more Jewish, all about the Jewish Bible, prayers, books and personalities.  An important focus in the book is resurrection and its Jewish sources and definition, from the Bible, Kabbala and to recent rabbis.

I do consider Journey to Heaven to be a valuable book, and I’ll have to read it a few more times to fully understand it.  The contents are very new to me.  That’s my “fault” not Bronner’s.  If you want to learn more about the Jewish concept of the “after life,” that isn’t preachy, then this is a good book for you.  It isn’t an emotional book; it’s academic.

Journey to Heaven, Urim Publications, by Leila Leah Bronner is a scholarly book because:

Leila Leah Bronner is a noted scholar who formerly served as Professor of Bible and Jewish History at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Bar Ilan University in Israel, and Yeshiva University’s Institute of Adult Studies in New York. She is the author of numerous books, including Eve to Esther: Rabbinic Reconstructions of Biblical Women, Stories of Elijah and Elisha, Sects and Separatism During the Second Jewish Commonwealth, Biblical Personalities and Archaeology, and Stories of Biblical Mothers: Maternal Power in the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Bronner lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she devotes much of her time to teaching and writing.

It’s a book to read more than once.

This post can be found on Shiloh Musings.

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