When I opened the latest issue of Newsweek I was delighted to see that there was an article devoted to the out-of-body experience reported by Dr. Eben Alexander in his new book. Dr. Alexander and I are in many ways kindred spirits. As scientists interested in the brain, we both have not been inclined toward religion (granted I am Jewish, not Christian). We have also both been privy to out-body-experiences that have reshaped our view of the world.
So, imagine my surprise when I read his report (available here) only to find that our experiences in that other place were so dramatically different. For the sake of comparison, here is a brief synopsis of what happened when my cortex completely stopped functioning during a recent faculty meeting:
Like Dr. Alexander, my spirit journeyed to a dimension I had never dreamt of before where a woman who was dressed in plain clothes received me. The similarites end there, however, as the woman who greeted me did not possess golden hair with blue eyes, but rather had brown eyes, with wisps of dark curly hair emerging from beneath her head covering. She spoke to me in a nasal voice with an unmistakably Brooklyn accent. "You're late. I've been standing here for half an hour, waiting for you." I was so taken aback. "Where am I? How can I be late when I didn't even know I was going anywhere?" The voice continued "Your grandparents, your great aunts and uncles, not one of them did I have to wait for, not even for a second. But, you? I'm waiting on this cloud like a homeless person."
I then noticed I was surrounded by etherial beings draped in dark garb with beards and shtreimels. There was a musical din as the men stood over books appearing to argue with one another. I overheard the one closest to me "You think this is heaven? With what they are charging for blintzes?? I hear the goyim are getting them free." Another apparition, speaking in Yiddish, expressed concern about whether corned beef bought at Kleins's could really be trusted as kosher. I asked my spiritual guide, "Is this really the after-world? It is not at all what I expected." My guide seemed irritated as she responded "Of course. What? You think you stop doing mitzvos once you leave earth? Here our only concerns are following all of God's directives including the Nine Commandments." "Nine?" I asked incredulously. My guide replied. "Yiddisher kop! Who are you going to kill here?"
I became concerned "Are there any differences at all between Heaven, and say, Borough Park?" "Of course," my guide responded with a hint of defensiveness, "here you can drive to shul on shabbos ... provided that you don't put the car into reverse. In fact, you can buy a shabbos car that doesn't even have reverse. You can also consume all the chulent you'd like without any gastric consequences, well, excepting a little heartburn perhaps and maybe the occasional upset stomach. Also, the Schnapps here is much cheaper, though for some reason the stores are still closed on Sundays. Azoy gait es!"
At that point, a sense of warmth engulfed me, as though someone had poured a bowl of chicken soup over my head. My spirit guide informed me that I was not yet prepared for the next world and that I would be returning to mine. I asked her whether there was a message I should take back with me, some word I should spread to others. Without hesitation she replied "Yes. Make sure people know about the corned beef at Klien's."
Unlike Dr. Eben Alexander, I'm still waiting to hear back from Simon and Schuster about a book deal.