The Interfaith Conversations series provides the medium to learn from each other’s faiths, to reinforce and strengthen our selves as true and complete human beings.
The season for Interfaith Conversations opened in the Los Angeles branch on the evening of November 5, 2013, with the distinguished Rabbi of Santa Monica Synagogue, Rabbi Jeff Marx, speaking about the “Jewish Views of the Afterlife”.
“This is an enormous topic to cover and I will do my best to touch upon a few fundamental points for you,” said Rabbi Marx as he started the night’s speech. We must, first of all, understand that Judaism has a history that is 4000 years old, and, throughout that history, certain beliefs and understandings have undergone certain stages of development, he explained.
As Rabbi Marx walked the listeners through the history of the development of the belief in the afterlife, he concentrated on the different interpretations of essential concepts such as the soul, Heaven and Hell, and punishment and reward. “When we look at the earliest records we have in the Bible, we see almost no mention of the afterlife,” commented Rabbi Marx. Later on, scholars of the religion took to wondering about what would greet them once they closed their eyes to this world.
The belief that everyone will have their fair chance at being judged for their deeds in this world is one of the common Jewish beliefs, and with the beginning of the Reformed Movement, we see a bigger focus on the soul, the part of us that comes from God, the part of us that is eternal, explained Rabbi Marx as he presented the listeners with more contemporary beliefs among the tradition. As our understanding, intellect and consciousness grew and developed throughout our history as human beings, so did our understanding of concepts like the afterlife, he noted. It is a process that is continuing to unfold, even today, he added.
The conversation was carried out in a light-hearted spirit of friendship as Rabbi Marx joyfully carried out his presentation. The speech was followed by a stimulating and engaging Q&A session where Rabbi Jeff Marx gladly answered all the questions of the enthusiastic audience.The evening’s program was concluded with light refreshments and continued conversations among the guests.