The last couple weeks I have been blogging more than usual. It seems there has been a flood of good topics lately or maybe I am just in a talkative mood. I normally try to spread posts out because I know readers are busy but I hope you hang with me the next few days. I do have what I think are some interesting posts coming up.
However, I want to start what is really a two-part post in a subtle way. I finished a book this last week that is the type of book which you discover blows the boundaries of your mind away. I like it when a book does that for it means both the writer and reader have put effort into it. The book was such an unusual topic that I just had to pick it up although I admit I kept expectations low. The name of the book is Beyond The Ashes : Cases Of Reincarnation From The Holocaust by Rabbi Yonassan Gershom. You see what I meant by unusual topics.
Seriously, I had never thought of reincarnation in terms of the Holocaust. I like exploring the paranormal or metaphysical – doesn’t mean I agree with every theory out there – so I found myself drawn to this book. It is the first of two books the Rabbi wrote on the subject. I have only read this one. By the way, if you think this is only for Jews you would be greatly mistaken. The case studies are both Gentile and Jews and I was shocked by the fact they total in the thousands.
This is the type of book that has so many currents of thought that I believe I could do a post for each chapter. Don’t worry, I am limiting myself to two posts. 🙂 My only complaint is the last chapter because the Rabbi swerved a bit from the core of the book as he wound it down and I think he lost focus in the last 20 pages a bit. Still it was food for thought and I give this a HUGE 5 star rating to anyone into religion, meditation, past lives, holocaust studies, psychology etc.
Oddly though, I want this post to be about Rabbi Gershom himself. The book was published in the 80’s. I had to order it through Abe’s Books although I guess the Rabbi runs his own Amazon store which I didn’t find out until later. After reading the book, I was like “who is this guy?” It takes guts to plow into a field that everyone will call you a lunatic for sowing and yet that doesn’t mean the need for a harvest is any less greater. The more I dug around on the internet about Rabbi Gershom the more I began to feel like I had come across a Greek tragedy of sorts where the messenger was punished for bringing the torch of hope to so many. It isn’t a matter of the message being right or wrong but that a messenger dare arrive at all.
At first I imagined Gershom might be a bit like John Mack. I even mentioned this to a good friend of mine. John Mack was a scientist who won a Pulitzer prize for a bio of T.E. Lawrence. He was a Harvard professor who got interested in studies of U.F.O. abductions. He wanted to know why so many people were claiming to experience these events and so he started gathering data. He put the data into a couple books including Abduction which was a huge best-seller and broke all kinds of new ground. Harvard didn’t take well to having their stuffy institution associated with U.F.O.’s and eventually they made life uncomfortable for him to the point he relocated. I don’t know all the details of the last part of Mack’s life other than he continued his research in England and was killed in an auto accident. Again, it doesn’t matter if you believe the subjects he was studying but rather that he was punished for doing the cases studies at all.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this. As my friend I was talking to about Mack reminded me by citing another friend as an example, in universities today if you don’t cite the right authors, or pick ‘business friendly’ topics, you don’t get published. If you don’t get published they don’t want you. It doesn’t matter if your theories are cutting edge or sound. Universities have stopped becoming about learning and more about concrete paper mills that attract big money.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised to have learned on the net that Rabbi Gershom leaves the impression he has burned out. Actually, there was a sad bitterness in some of the comments I found by him. He had become so associated with this work that he could not escape the label of being the Holocaust reincarnation guy. People kept coming to him – often desperate – as their last hope. He tried writing a couple other books but no matter for his life apparently seemed to come back to this work.
It has left him impoverished. He didn’t get rich off this work – often helping people for free – and now tagged with the label it is harder than ever to make ends meet. I found a Facebook page for him. Doesn’t seem to have been updated much since 2010 but you are left with the impression that he feels abandoned in his small Minnesota community and that the financial strain at some point might have been too much.
It makes you wonder though if sometimes we are bound to lost causes (for lack of a better term for I am not sure they are truly lost) in our lives for a reason? If the Fates know there is no escape and that we only hurt ourselves in trying to out run what fortune has dropped on our doorstep? There is a quote on the 2nd to last page of the book which apparently Rabbi Gershom ignored in later years:
“It is not for you to complete the work …. but neither are you free to quit.” Pg. 261
I am not passing judgment on Rabbi Gershom or claim to understand the burden he was straddled with but rather am struck that maybe it would do us all good to remember that just because we don’t believe a message – or more likely fear it – we shouldn’t inflict our retribution on messengers like Mack and Gershom. In the end, they may be opening doors we didn’t realize existed.