Part 3 - The Relativity of Death: What is death?

What is the cause of death? What Is “Death by the Kiss”? In this article we will try to answer the following questions through the lens of the Kabbalah of Information.

What Next (photo credit: PIXABAY)
What Next
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

In this article I will try to give an answer to the following questions through the lens of the Kabbalah of Information: what is death? What is the cause of death? What is the result of death? However, first I will give a brief overview of the existing answers to these questions from the perspectives of science and medicine.

In modern science and medicine, there is no unanimous opinion about the definition and the causes of death. There are various approaches. These include: death as the irreversible loss of capacity to be engaged in vital activities. Deaths is the irreversible cessation of organismic functioning. Death is the irreversible loss of personhood. 

In science, there are three main views regarding the nature of death: animalism, personism and mindism. Animalists consider human beings as animals; personism – as creatures with a capacity for self-awareness; mindism – as purely the mind. Consequently, according to animalists we cease to be the same animal when we die. Mindists say that we die when we cease to be the same mind. Personists say that we die when we lose certain psychological features (personhood). 

Similarly, there are different approaches in modern medicine. The whole-brain standard says that human death is the irreversible cessation of functioning of the entire brain, including the brainstem. The definition of brain death given by Wikipedia is “the permanent and irreversible complete loss of brain function, including involuntary activity necessary to sustain life”. The higher-brain approach says that human death is the irreversible cessation of the capacity for consciousness. According to the cardio-pulmonary standard, death is the irreversible cessation of the cardio-pulmonary function. 

In my view, these definitions and approaches are incomplete, superficial, and sometimes contradictory. 

The Position of the Kabbalah of Information

Definition. Death is the complete and irreversible cessation of informational exchange between the soul and the body of a person, which takes place in a certain part of the informational space of Creation (world). 

Cause. The cause of death is the change of the informational content, either of the body or of the soul, which leads to the increase in the distance between them in the informational space and the cessation of informational exchange – in a certain world.

Result. The result of death is the complete and irreversible loss of human agency in a certain world.

Death due to changes of the informational content of the body happens due to environmental factors, ageing, disease, injury, etc. 

Death as the result of the change of the informational content of the soul implies that in the moment of death, the body is in a healthy condition. This kind of death is called “death by the kiss” in the Kabbalah. According to the tradition, Abraham, Itzhak, Jacob, Moshe, Aaron, Miriam, and the sons of Aaron Nadav and Avihu have died via the death by the kiss. In Deuteronomy chapter 34 (34:5 and 34:7) we read: “And Moses the servant of Lord died there in the land of Moab, by the mouth of the Lord” (“Al-Pi Avaya”). The mouth of the Lord signifies the Sephira Malkhut of Atzilut, the origin of the Worlds of Creation. “Moses was one-hundred-and-twenty years old when he died. His eye had not dimmed, nor had he lost his natural freshness.” Here, the Torah emphasised that in the moment of his death, the body of Moses was in a healthy condition.

In my opinion, Adam and Hava have also died by the kiss. However, I will consider this in greater depth in another article. 

What Is “Death by the Kiss”?

In order to obtain a detailed understanding of the notions of life and death, it is necessary to consider the fate of the soul before birth and after death in our world from the perspective of Judaism and the Kabbalah. There is no precise information on this in the Torah. Some clues are given in the Prophets, but they are opaque. It is generally accepted that before birth, the soul is situated in the spiritual world; then it descends to our world and joins the body. Following death, the soul goes to Gehinom, where it is cleansed from evil and sin, after which it ascends to Gan Eden to stay there until the resurrection of the dead. 

Here, birth is associated with the descent of the soul, and death with its ascent. Rabbi Itzhak Luria draws an analogy between the Exodus of Jews from Egypt and the fate of the soul after death. He compares the departure from Egypt with the soul leaving the body, and the Red sea to the first stage of Purgatory. In the desert of Sin, the Jews complained about Moshe and Aaron; Arizal compared this to the immersion of the soul into a more subtle Purgatory (“The Flame of the Revolving Sword”). Here, he meant the cherub with a revolving sword placed by G-d to guard the entrance to Gan Eden. After that, G-d gave the Jews the man falling from the sky; Arizal likens it to the lower level of Paradise (Gan Eden). In Rephidim, there was no water to drink, and Amalek came to fight against Israel. Arizal considers Rephidim to be the most subtle level of Purgatory before the ascent to the upper level of Paradise, which, according to him, is represented by mount Sinai and the reception of the Torah. 

The abovementioned descriptions leave many questions unanswered. For instance, they do not define the notions of Gehinom and do not refer to the movement of the soul through the structure of Creation (the worlds). It is not possible to provide definitive answers to this extremely complicated issue. Below, you will find the opinion given in the Kabbalah of Information.

In Judaism, the soul of a man comprises several layers: Nefesh (responsible for the physical functioning of the body – associated with the Sephira Malkhut and the world Assyah – our world), Ruach (the emotional part of the soul – associated with the Sephirot Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzah, Chod, Yesod (Zeir Anpin) and the world Yetzirah), Neshama (the intellectual part of the soul – ­­­associated with the Sephira Bina and the world Briah), Chaya (subconsciousness ­– associated with the Sephira Chochma and the world Atzilut) and Yehida (particle of G-d – associated with the Sephira Keter of Atzilut).

In the informational space of Creation, there are no notions of “up” and “down”. Therefore, the Kabbalistic notions of ascent and descent should be understood figuratively. By descent, the Kabbalah of Information means the transition of the soul from worlds with a higher dimensionality and complexity of concepts to those with a lower dimensionality and complexity of concepts. The reverse is understood as ascent.

 In its movement from one world to another, the soul should pass the critical points of phase transition (see Preface). Accordingly, the dimensionality of the soul and its access to concepts should change. Moreover, we should take into account the presence of the Other Side (Sitra Ahera – see Preface), which has a different dimensionality in every world: greatest in Assyah, diminished in Yetzirah, and minimal in Briah. Hence, in order to ascend to a world of a higher dimensionality, the soul must reduce its dimensionality in the Sitra Ahera (on the Other Side).

In our world, the soul is subject to evil and sin to a varying extent. As a result, it occupies a certain position on the Other Side of the informational space. In order to move to the next world, it has to get rid of certain dimensions of the Other Side through good deeds and repentance; and for that it needs a body. Then it should pass through a transition point – which is death in this world. The same process takes place in all three worlds of Creation, until the soul-body gets rid of all the dimensions of the Sitra Ahera and enters Gan Eden, which has no dimensions of evil. Here, we are referring to the state of Adam before the sin. 

The Kabbalah acknowledges another way of purification: that occurring through multiple reincarnations. We will not expand on this complex issue in this essay.

The presence of Sitra Ahera (informational space of anticommandments) in every world of Creation implies the presence of an informational space of commandments, and consequently, the Torah in every world of Creation. Torah informs us about the two commandments given to Adam and Hava in the world of Briah: “produce and multiply”, and the prohibition to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

According to the Kabbalah of Information, the descent of the soul from “higher” worlds means death relatively to them and rebirth relatively to the “lower” worlds. In this case, the dimensionality of the soul and its access to concepts (knowledge) diminishes. The opposite occurs during ascent. Ascent is the death relatively to a “lower” world and rebirth relatively to a “higher” world. This transitioning is reflected in the book Torah Or (The Light of the Torah), written by the Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Lyadi (founder of the Chabad movement): “For this purpose all the worlds were created, transitioning from the state of nothing to a state of something, ­– to undergo a reverse transition from the state of something to a state of nothing”. “It is not possible to make a straightforward transition from one spiritual level to another without being in a state of ayn – nothing – in between [the moment of transition from one world to another].” 

It is important to note that the information obtained by the soul on lower levels never disappears, even after transitions.

Based on the above, I can attempt to explain the nature of “death by the kiss”. First, we should recall the process of the creation of man. In Genesis 2:7 we read: “And the Lord G-d formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life [neshamot chayim], and man became a living soul”. From that we can conclude that G-d prepared the body of the first man in a perfect state, functional and healthy, without any defects, and the body began to function after being connected to the soul (Neshama – the intellectual part). In my view, death by the kiss is the exact opposite of the process of the creation of the first man: the soul departs from the physically healthy body in our world and goes straightforwardly to Gan Eden, where the first man was created, bypassing the intermediate stages described above. There it acquires a body corresponding to the informational structure of Gan Eden. 

There is no concrete proof of this idea in the Torah. But my considerations are the following. First, we can see who was granted death by the kiss (the best of the best). Second, the Torah informed us that in the moment of his death, Moshe was perfectly healthy. There is no superfluous and meaningless information in the Torah. Accordingly, this message has a definite meaning, which I attempted to interpret above.

Here, we can ask a legitimate question: what is the mechanism of death by the kiss, and why does a healthy body stop functioning upon ceasing to interact with the soul? I would like to remind the reader that, apart from forces effectuating the interactions between the entities of our Universe (currently four forces), the Kabbalah of Information considers the force that has brought our Universe and its entities into existence and continuously supports it. Through the soul, Almighty continuously supports the functioning of the body. When the soul and the body stop interacting, this supporting force ceases to exist. In Torah Or, we read: “The vitality of all the worlds depends on the combination of letters [information] which are on the level of the ‘word of G-d’ – the Sephira Malkhut of Atzilut. This combination of letters supports the existence of innumerable separate and limited creatures”. 

To purchase Eduard Shyfrin’s book ‘From Infinity to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah Within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics’ please click here.

To purchase Eduard Shyfrin’s book ‘Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind’ please click here.