Monday, September 19, 2011

Video Proves Afterlife!

Yeah, right. If only.

A few days ago one of my friends posted a link on Facebook to this video.

In the video Rabbi Mizrachi claims that he will provide scientific proof of the existence of the afterlife. Always hopeful, I watched it. I didn’t bother watching the rest of the series. After rambling a bit and citing Torah sources, R’ Mizrachi outlines his five scientific proofs for the afterlife. They are:

1) Out-of-body experiences
2) Séances
3) Reincarnation
4) Hypnotic regression causing people to speak in languages they don’t understand
5) Two people inhabiting one body, by which I assume he means split-personality disorder.

The list is laughable. Even his proof from the Torah that there is an afterlife is hardly conclusive. He says that the Torah forbids us to communicate with the dead. This, he claims, proves that it is possible to speak to the dead, which in turn proves that there must be some sort of afterlife.

Unfortunately for him, this is not necessarily so. Many things in the Torah are polemics against idolatry. Communicating with the dead was common practice in many idolatrous cults of the Ancient Near East. The prohibition is as likely meant to prevent Jewish people from engaging in this idolatrous practice of their neighbors (despite it having no efficacy) as it is meant to prevent actual communication with the dead.

I had never heard of R’ Mizrachi, and at first I figured he was just some local rav who had decided to give a hashkafa lecture and had it filmed. But no, it turns out that he has his own kiruv organization, with its own website with many lectures purporting to PROVE that Judaism is right scientifically and theologically.

What little I’ve seen of his lectures show that it’s not even worth debunking. I mean, going through it might be fun, and picking stuff like this apart is good for my ego, but there’s no real accomplishment in picking such low-hanging fruit. And yet, Rabbi Mizrachi’s bio claims that one of his videos was distributed to more than 200,000 people, he’s given 4,000 lectures, and his Facebook page has 56,000 friends and over 1,000,000 hits a month. In the tiny frum world, those are celebrity stats.

Bad science and terrible “proofs” from kiruv organizations is hardly news. Being confronted by something like this video, though, brings home just how bad it can be and highlights that sad state of popular Orthodox theology.


  1. Someone I know cited near-death experiences in which people have seen a "light" as proof of the afterlife. I countered that in most of these versions, the person sees Jesus or Mary or some other Christian figure. The person didn't understand why that would be problematic in proving the Jewish belief in the afterlife!

  2. I can't imagine watching thirteen installments of that! But I did watch some of part 2, just to get an idea of how Rabbi Mizrachi fills out the topics in his outline. He cites books that have been published that collect the testimony of people who underwent clinical death and were revived, and then enumerates common elements in the accounts that they give, e.g., seeing their bodies from above, seeing a dark tunnel, and so on. This is supposed to constitute "scientific proof" that the soul is separable from the body and survives death! Further on (I was skipping through the video and did not hear every detail), he says that some of these patients "will tell you everything that went on in the entire hospital" while they were clinically dead. Well, that would be extraordinary if someone actually did it, but one can't investigate the claim on the basis of the video.

  3. Thanks for sharing this inspirational video...and that just in time for the yomim noraim! :P

  4. NDEs have been replicated with pilots who in their training their bodies are tested by moving them at very high velocities. Many pilots pass out due to oxygen deprivation and many have similar experiences to NDEs, such as bright lights, going through a tunnel, visions of seeing their body from above, visions of their relatives, etc.

  5. I wonder how many people came to that lecture. I didnt hear much laughter. Maybe he gave that lecture to his wife and children. Avi

  6. In yeshiva, we had a guy like this come in and give us a similar spiel. He claimed to be some kind of scientist and he had a beard, and I really wanted to believe him. At the end, I just came out thinking, Well you've got nutjobs everywhere, why not scientists as well?

  7. After no more than three minutes of listening to this dingbat, I suddenly felt I was headed towards a near-death experience, so I quickly closed my laptop and took a cold shower.