A little less than 40 years ago, Raymond Moody caused a major stir in scientific circles when he published Life After Life, a book that chronicles hundreds of near death experiences – a term that he coined. In a near death experience, the patient is clinically dead, but is then revived and able to describe what “death” was like. Nearly all the cases share an eerie similarity. Typically, there was no heart rate, no respiration, and no brain wave activity, yet the person was conscious, aware and watching as attempts were made to resuscitate him. Often the patients described a sense of popping out of their bodies and hovering near the ceiling, looking down on the accident scene, while their bodies were pronounced dead. When revived, they were often able to relate detailed information about what transpired while they were “dead.” Some repeated conversations verbatim. Others recounted in vivid detail the medical procedures attempted on their lifeless bodies – all done while they lay there unconscious, stone dead.
Since the publication of the book, thousands of near death experiences have been reported, and the subject has undergone much discussion and scientific study. The evidence seems irrefutable. Over and over, people come back and recount seeing things that they couldn’t possibly have seen and knowing things that they couldn’t possibly know because they were dead when they happened. For many, these findings challenge their understanding of life.
This Rosh Hashanah will mark the 10th-year anniversary of one of the most chilling and eye-opening near death experiences ever documented.
The following article appeared in the Israeli newspaper, The Week in Jerusalem on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, October 26, 2003. It told the famous account of Sharon Nachshoni, a man who returned to life following a brutal accident, and was deemed a “medical miracle” in Israel and throughout the world. In the interview, Sharon revealed his incredible story – about the catastrophic accident, the mysterious “angel” that performed surgery on him only to disappear, the memories of his chilling trial in the next world, and the strength he found to carry on his life and spread faith, despite a body held together by screws, plastic joints and pins.
According to every medical indication, it was clear that the man was dead. And yet, we met with that same man recently, still living among us. Though he has tens of replacement joints and body parts, Sharon retains both his love of life and a deep religious faith. In Israel and throughout the world, experts consider Sharon a medical miracle. Rational science cannot offer an explanation for his condition – how a clinically dead person could return to life after a collision hurling such massive tonnage against his body.
“My name is Sharon Nachshoni,” Sharon says as he begins to tell his amazing account.
“I am a father of three and live in Nes Zionah, Israel. I served in the Israel Defense Forces as an undercover soldier with the rank of officer and then as a bodyguard in the office of the Israeli Prime Minister. One day I received a notice for 70 days of reserve duty in Hebron. On the day of my call-up, I put all my gear into the car, said goodbye to my wife, and started on my way. There was nothing extraordinary about it. The amazing thing is that about four minutes away from the house – not in combat duty in the West Bank or facing any particular danger – something awful beyond description happened.
“As I was driving, my left front tire exploded. I had been holding the steering wheel with one hand from the inside, and my arm suddenly slipped into the space at the center of the steering wheel. The wheel suddenly turned, dislocating my arm at the elbow and then the shoulder. My head was thrust into the steering wheel, breaking my jaw and nose and destroying part of my left ear. So far, everything was okay…
“I was in the car, badly injured, and from the intensity of the pain I lost consciousness. I lost my ability to breathe because my nose was broken and my mouth was bleeding profusely due to my broken jaw. I was basically gasping for air and choking to death, because I couldn’t expel or take any air into my lungs. That means there was no oxygen getting to my brain.
“I know what happened afterwards only because of what people who were at the scene of the accident later told me. The car sped out of control into oncoming traffic and missed a few cars on the way, but then it smashed head-on into a huge semi-trailer, wedging itself underneath. My car was dragged for many meters before the truck finally stopped. The engine of the car became lodged in the front seat, ripping away the bottom of my foot, breaking my knees, and dislocating both my pelvis and the elbow of my right arm that was still holding onto the gear shift.
“A rescue team arrived on the scene. After an hour of struggle they were able to remove me from the car, pronouncing me dead on the spot. They even covered me up. I can show you the picture in the Yediot Acharonot newspaper of the man who covered me up.
“Then, thanks to Gd’s kindness, bus #212 from Ashdod arrived, driven by Moshe Melamed (who has since become religiously observant due to this story). A medical officer on the bus began arguing with the driver, demanding that he allow him to disembark and help the injured man – me. He got off the bus and asked why the man was covered up. ‘What do you think, because he’s cold? He’s dead!’ replied the medical staff. The stranger did not give up. He removed the sheet that was covering me and checked my pulse. ‘He still has a chance to live!’ he shouted. He ran to the medical investigator at the accident and took from him a simple screwdriver and pushed it into my lungs from the side. He also took the pen of the investigator, emptied its contents, and with the empty cylinder, started to drain the blood from my lungs. For 17 minutes he fought for my life, and in the end I began gasping again. The surgery he performed is called a tracheotomy, and is generally performed on the battlefield. I went from being in critical condition to a critical state with a chance to live.
“Later on, I was transferred from Kaplan Hospital to the orthopedic unit at Tel HaShomer Hospital, where I underwent rehabilitation, which was the hardest part of the entire period. It is hard to describe the feeling of trepidation and fear in that department of the hospital. You see young men aged 17 or 18, handsome and strong, losing their will to live. There are those who simply are not capable of motivating themselves. During that period, my doctors at Tel HaShomer told me that there was no chance I would ever stand on my own two legs again. They made special arrangements for me and told me they would get me a motorized wheelchair… I was convinced that I was done with any kind of walking on my own. My father invested many thousands of dollars to construct special elevators throughout our house, so that it would be easier for me to get around. It was clear that I would never walk again.
“It was Saturday evening when they disconnected me from the morphine that I was taking to dull the pain from the transplant of a bone in my leg to my jaw. No one believed that I would ever walk on my legs again, so they allowed for bones to be taken from my leg for transplant to other parts of my body. (During that time, Rabbi Yoram Aberjel – a kabbalist from Southern Israel – promised me that I would someday stand up and walk. The doctor laughed at him and said: ‘How will he walk? We took bones out of his legs!’).
“During the recuperation period, they took me to shower. I was scared, and asked my brother-in-law, ‘Shachar, where is Aunt Miriam?’ He feigned ignorance and didn’t answer me. So I asked my sister, ‘Do you know where our aunt is?’
“She answered, ‘The doctors don’t want us to tell you.’ I asked her why, and she asked, ‘Why is it so important to you?’ I said to her, ‘If she is alive, then I must have had some kind of dream, but if she died, then it looks like I really did see something.’
“At that point, y brother-in-law said to me, ‘Don’t tell anyone that I told you, but you should know that she died on the same day as your accident.’ That gave me strength.
“During the whole period I was connected to morphine, I would talk and mumble about what I saw above in heaven, though I don’t even remember what I said. It was my good luck that my brother-in-law and sister sensed I was about to say something important and brought a pen and paper and wrote down everything that I said. It was a Saturday night, and I remember it only vaguely. But my brother-in-law says that I was very frightened the entire time just by the thought of telling my story.”
Sharon offers us the original piece of paper upon which the story was written. Here is a summary of the incredible story that it tells:
After the accident, apparently during the time when he was considered dead, Sharon saw himself enter a tunnel, and was drawn after a light, until he arrived at a kind of large hall that had no end. In the hall there were many benches filled with people. All of them were happy and radiated warmth and love. All of them were dead, but they looked as complete and alive as could be.
All the people in the hall were men, expect for Sharon’s grandmother, who was standing to the side, well-dressed with a silver kerchief on her head. Sharon continues:
“The hall was large without an end. I remember certain people clearly, like Tzadok’s father… Moshe Cohen’s father… David Rafael’s father and others. I looked for my grandfather but didn’t find him. I asked Shalom Nachshoni, ‘Where is grandfather?’ and he said that he had gone with his brother to speak on my behalf.”
Sharon’s grandfather was a man of great kindness and a well-known personality in Nes Tzionah. The entire family was very close to him. Sharon really wanted to meet him. But then, Sharon sensed that he was moving towards the center of the hall in the direction of a sort of stage set there:
“I remember that I looked at myself and was embarrassed by what I was wearing. The clothes were spiritual, but everyone else was wearing very fancy clothing, splendid, spiritual clothes, while mine were very dirty. I felt as embarrassed as I would if I were to walk into a bet midrash in filthy clothes. The first thing that entered my mind was to hide from my embarrassment. I found a corner. Then I saw a kind of strong light. I knew that if I looked at it directly I would be burned. From within the light two voices were emitted. One of them was ‘the bad voice’ and one of them was ‘the good voice.’ I clearly saw three rabbis sitting next to the light: Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, Rabbi David Batzri, and Rabbi Yoram Aberjel. I didn’t even know Rabbi Aberjel during those days. Only afterwards did I find out who that rabbi was.
“Then there was quiet in the hall and the bad voice said, ‘Either you or your Aunt Miriam; one of you stays here!’ At the beginning I didn’t understand why he was talking about Aunt Miriam and what she had to do with that place, but suddenly I noticed her standing besides me. She was on the stage in the very same state in which I had seen her at the hospital – frail and sick, and with that same robe. Then I understood that this was an awful day for our family, for one of us would not stay in the world.
“Immediately I jumped up and said: ‘I can stay here!’ Then the good voice said that both my aunt and I are inclusive souls, responsible and concerned for the family, just like my grandfather was. For this reason, it made sense that I should remain alive and bring another soul into the world – a child who will continue the good deeds of my grandfather.
“Then it was the bad voice’s turn again. He demanded a trial, and during this moment I saw my entire life pass before my eyes like a movie. It was much stronger than any video, as though I was reliving the events all over again. From childhood to adulthood – I saw everything. The embarrassment was unbearable. The scenes passed by and everyone saw what I had done – both the good things and the bad. Everything was open before them – the sin of hatred, lack of respect for parents, malicious gossip, crooked dealings, immodest behavior, and more.
“And then, to my surprise, I was asked a question just like it says in the holy books: ‘Were you honest in your business dealings?’ In heaven, they really emphasize the matter of honesty, which means being careful not to deceive anyone. Even little things like leaving the factory a few minutes early are important up there. The bad voice said: ‘You did not perform your task properly, but only for profit. You worked for money because you love money!’ I couldn’t answer him, and anyway I was sure that the good voice would answer any claim that the bad voice made. Afterwards I was asked questions like, ‘Did you set aside specific times for Torah study?’and I said yes. ‘Did you eagerly await the redemption?’ I didn’t understand that question. During this time they detailed my sins and reviewed them with me very carefully. They spoke with me about malicious gossip. You have no idea how condemning heaven is of malicious gossip. They continued with the subject of hate: ‘You have a friend you are looking to fight with all the time!’ About vows: ‘You made a pledge to the synagogue and didn’t keep it!’ And then they went to the subject of honoring parents: ‘You didn’t honor your parents enough because you thought that you would marry and then basically disconnect from the family – now we will show you that you need them!’ From there they moved on to talking about crooked dealings: ‘You used your grandmother’s phone credits without asking her permission!’
“Then the good voice started to defend me, and said that I gave money to yeshivot. But then the bad voice interrupted and said, ‘But he became arrogant because of it and hung the plaque up on the wall.’ And then they began an accounting of my mitzvot – my fulfillment of the Torah’s commandments – each one by itself. How happy I was for every foot I walked in this world wearing tzitzit. It is impossible to describe how much tzitzit helps up there, because all the commandments have massive spiritual value in and of themselves. Not a single commandment is forgotten – neither big nor small.
“The good voice continued to list the commandments that I had observed – like keeping the Sabbath assiduously and celebrating it in every way that I could. How I always tried to make brides and grooms happy at their weddings. And then they started to bring witnesses to my defense. At this point the rabbis interjected that they were on my side. People don’t understand the greatness of tzadikkim, righteous and holy individuals. They can testify to our goodness and honesty. Even tzadikkim who are still alive are involved in the upper worlds.
“Then they reminded me that I had driven together with my brother-in-law to a raffle that took place in Bnei Brak for a yeshivah, and that when the head of the yeshivah came in, they announced that anyone who had not yet given a contribution and would give one now would receive a bottle of wine that the rabbi had blessed. I jumped up first and paid for a bottle of wine blessed by the rabbi. Can you imagine that that same rabbi, who is still alive, came himself to testify for my worthiness because I had donated money to his yeshivah!
“Afterwards, they recalled other kind acts that I had done, such as helping a widow. Even she came forward to testify on my behalf! This was what shifted the scales in my favor, I was told.
“Then the judge spoke. A loud, clear voice that had emerged from the blinding light: ‘Do you accept upon yourself the things that you must do?’ And then he read for me aloud a number of the things which would become the purpose of my life, which I don’t want to reveal. I obligated myself to one of them and said I would do my best at the others. The voice continued: ‘You must know that you stand to suffer a great deal in this world, but this will be your atonement.’
“Then the trial ended. I started to turn around and run from the hall in a panic. I felt the same terrible embarrassment I had sensed about my dirty clothes, because of the intense and complete exposure to everyone at the trial. Then I saw my grandmother running after me; she was the only one left in the hall. When I left the hall, I saw other rabbis and people I didn’t know, and everyone glowed with warmth and love. Outside, too, my grandmother continued chasing after me, and I felt that she was doing it to make sure that I really left that world of truth – that I wouldn’t suddenly change my mind and remain there. And then suddenly, my grandmother disappeared, as did the hall, and I saw myself inside the ambulance. I saw my body laying on the gurney and the doctors treating me. At that point I was unconscious – by medical standards – and breathing through a respirator. Despite all this, I saw myself from above and the doctors working on me. Suddenly, I stopped seeing from above and I woke up in my body.”
Sharon has told his story hundreds of times, yet each time he becomes just as emotional as he did the first time. This is the story of his life that has continued until today. Countless numbers of people who have heard the story find that it ignites in them a spark about the meaning of life. When they see Sharon arrive at the lecture on two legs, smiling and happy, it is very hard for them to believe their own eyes.
In order to understand the intensity of the miracle, here is a list of special devices and implants in Sharon’s body that help him walk and function in the world: A prosthetic foot due to loss of the sole of one of his feet; plastic and metal kneecaps; two bicycle chains with seventeen bolts around his pelvis, holding his legs to his body; platinum and radium plates in his forearm; a strip of metal in place of one of his shoulders; a plastic elbow on his left arm; false teeth; a false jawbone comprised of bones extracted from his legs; and a hearing aid built into his ear.
Rabbi Zamir Cohen is the founder of the Hidabroot organization and has written several books, including his national bestseller, “The Coming Revolution.”