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Journey to the Upper Realm

Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30 )

by Rabbi Menachem Weiman

This week's parsha discusses the death of our teacher, Moses, and uses the words, "Moses went, and spoke these words to all of Israel." And then Moses discusses his imminent demise. This is strange: Nowhere does it say where Moses went. We are also struck with the question of how Moses knew he was about to die?

A famous Moroccan kabbalist, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar (1696-1743) explains, based on the Zohar, that 40 days before someone passes away, their soul leaves them and goes to its place in the upper realm. Most of us are unaware of this spiritual episode.

The body and soul are interwoven, yet they are from two different realms. The body starts and stops because it is physical and made of matter, whereas the soul is both in the body and also of the body; it extends into the chain of command in the upper realms, and is a piece of the Infinite. So it can journey to the spiritual realms without us being conscious of any change.

A righteous person (tzaddik) has enough sensitivity to be aware of his soul's movement in this way. Since a tzaddik is unfettered by his physical side, he recognizes the body as a foreign element, and is therefore more in touch with spirituality.

The truth is, whatever you choose as your main focus of attention in life becomes more a part of you, and you develop extra sensory abilities in that area. A farmer can taste the soil and tell you what will grow well there. If the soul and spirituality are your main interest, you will become more attuned to spiritual events.

Moses, the penultimate tzaddik, was aware of his soul leaving him, and he recognized that meant he would pass away in 40 days. (The day of his death was the same Hebrew calendar day as the day of his birth, the seventh of Adar. Traditionally, this is a significant annual observance for people devoted to religious burial ritual, the Chevra Kadisha.)


While we are asleep, what happens to our soul? Where does it go?

The Talmud says that "sleep is one-sixtieth of death." How are sleep and death comparable? One similarity is the concept of the soul leaving the body and journeying in the spiritual realm. While in the upper echelon, the soul can sometimes bring back information that you can know in a dream, or in an intuition. You may not understand the thought, where it came from, or what to do about it - but it is imbedded in your soul.

In order to decipher spiritual information, you must make yourself more spiritually aware. One way to do this is to spend more time focused on spirituality. Another way is to recognize some of the ways you are too tied up in physicality.

A third method, specifically regarding dream information, is to keep a dream journal. In the morning, write down as much as you recall from your dreams the night before. Ask yourself what you think the dream means.

Some dreams are due to physical factors, like what you ate before you went to sleep. Often, dreams are based on the events or thoughts of the day. When you're worried or anxious about an upcoming important event, this will often translate into nightmares about being chased, etc. And sometimes, a piece of a dream is very important and possibly a message from above.


The goal of life is for the body and soul to work together for the Almighty. The soul will never concede its mission, but the body can be convinced to be more spiritual. Think more about spirituality and look for the things about spirituality that you find pleasurable. This propels you into more spirituality.

Spiritual Exercise:

For one month, keep a log of any dreams you have. Write them down first thing in the morning. See if anything rubs off on you.


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