His isn’t the first story of a post-death experience. In recent years it seems more and more people who have been declared clinically dead have survived to tell of their other-worldly experiences, reporting such similar visions as a strong white light at the end of a tunnel and an encompassing feeling of peace and warmth. Yet Sharon Nachshoni’s story is so detailed, his vision so vivid, that it changed his entire outlook on life and has served as an inspiration to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, who have heard him tell it.
Until two years ago, Sharon Nachshoni was climbing the ladder of military intelligence, serving as squad commander of an anti-terror undercover unit in Judea and Samaria and having served as chief of security for secret intelligence delegations in Eastern Europe. His religious affiliation, like so many Sephardi Israelis, was traditional. He honored rabbis and gave charity to yeshivot, but his personal commitment to everyday Judaism wasn’t yet developed.
Until the day of the accident in June 1997. That morning, Nachshoni, father of three, left his home in Rechovot to help prepare a secret salvation strategy for the Army’s upcoming partial withdrawal from Hebron. Five minutes on the road, and his left front wheel blew out, leaving the car to spin out of control into the opposite lane, where it was demolished by an oncoming truck. When the rescue workers finally extricated Sharon’s body from the wreckage, it looked more like a heap of flesh and blood. His left arm and his hips were crushed. The car’s engine had smashed his legs, his jaws were broken, his nose was torn off and all his teeth were knocked out. One of the medics gathered them up and put them in a cup. His lungs were so badly injured that he stopped breathing and lost consciousness. By the time he was laid out on a stretcher, his pulse and breathing had stopped. The ambulance team covered him with a sheet and filled out the form – “Dead at the scene of the accident.”
The accident caused a major traffic tie-up, and one vehicle stuck in the jam was Egged Bus 212, going from Ashdod to Rechovot. A young man came off the bus and said he was an army medic. On his shirt was written, “Medical Officer.” The rescue workers pointed him in the direction of the other injured waiting to be evacuated, but he went over to the body under the sheet and said, “What’s with this one?” “Oh, he’s dead,” they answered. Yet the medical officer wanted to investigate for himself. He pulled off the blanket, and with the help of a few crude tools including a ball-point pen, he performed an emergency tracheotomy and cleared Sharon’s lungs of the blood and fluid so that air could get in. Suddenly Sharon began to gurgle and breathe. The rescue workers saw the change in his status and immediately put him on one of the ambulances at the scene. However, the medical officer disappeared, and to this day no one has been able to discover who he was, despite newspaper and radio ads looking for him.
While all this was happening below, Sharon Nachshoni was experiencing something altogether different above. As he lay dead on the pavement, his soul was standing before the Heavenly Court in judgment, and although only one part of the dramatic scene is still etched in his memory, when he eventually regained consciousness, he gave an exact description of what he saw to his sister and brother-in-law, who recorded and verified the details. His wife Avivit, who at this point had no idea that he had been declared clinically dead, said she noticed the change in him even as he was being wheeled into the emergency room. He could barely breath, yet he kept mumbling, “I saw Grandfather. Grandfather pushed me.” And as he drifted in and out of consciousness after the initial nine-hour-long surgery, with massive effort he whispered, “Where is Aunt Miriam?” Aunt Miriam was a righteous woman who spent her days doing chessed for others. Her health situation had been declining rapidly and Sharon had visited her the day before the accident. She passed away just hours before the accident, but, not wanting to upset Sharon, his family told him she was fine.
“They didn’t understand,” Sharon explained. “I wanted to know if she was really dead. I saw her in the hall of the Heavenly Court.”
Over the next few hours, in and out of consciousness, Sharon’s questions continued, his requests baffling his family. He told his wife to take down a plaque that was hanging on a wall in recognition of a contribution he had given to a yeshiva and to put it away in a drawer. He asked his mother if he had ever made a pledge he didn’t keep in the end. She replied that six years before he had pledged to donate an Aron Kodesh to a certain synagogue following a previous car accident. “I must finance it as soon as possible,” he told his mother in desperation. Later he looked up, smiled, and said, “Hashem, I love you.” His behavior was baffling, but his family attributed it to the severe injuries he’d suffered in the accident. At that point they didn’t know he had been declared clinically dead. They only found out after he was moved out of the recovery suite into the intensive care ward, when his wife and sister took a peek into his file, which was lying open on the bed. “He was actually dead!” they realized. What had transpired during those minutes?
Meanwhile, Sharon spent months in the hospital, undergoing surgery after surgery as doctors pieced him back together. He remembers nothing of those months, being under heavy sedation and high doses of morphine so that his body would have a chance to heal without the interference of the intolerable pain he would have felt had he been awake. He is considered a medical miracle, and he has been the subject of various medical symposia over the last two years. The surgeon who operated on his head even became a ba’al teshuva after witnessing Sharon’s amazing survival. By the time he was moved to the rehabilitation wing of Tel Hashomer Hospital, he was surely alive, but doctors didn’t give him much hope of further recovery. His left hand was totally nonfunctional, he couldn’t move his legs and his body was massively scarred. In place of his shattered bones, in the course of 17 operations doctors had implanted pieces of metal to connect whatever bones were still viable, and his daily dose of physical suffering was more than most humans could bear. But he bore it with grace, as the Heavenly Court had told him he would have much suffering in the physical world if he chose to return to life. One evening during those long months, his brother-in-law shared a quiet visit with him. “You’ve experienced something only very few merit,” his brother-in-law said. “Something happened to you when you were hovering between this world and the next. Please tell what you saw.”
Sharon had hinted at his metaphysical experience before, but he was always afraid to divulge what had happened Up There. Perhaps no one would believe him. Perhaps they’d think he’d gone crazy. Besides, he spent his days drifting in and out of consciousness. This time, during a period of lucidity, his brother-in-law pressed on. “No more boundaries,” he implored. “Tell who you saw, what it was like. It will strengthen others in their fear of Heaven.”
Sharon began. His brother-in-law, Shachar Ashbal, who learns in a kollel in Binyamina, was there with Sharon’s sister. Together they heard the story, which Sharon no longer recalls. He doesn’t even remember the conversation, but Shachar Ashbal made sure to get the whole thing on tape.
Right after the accident, Sharon Nachshoni entered a large hall, which was full of people who had died, some many years ago, some whom Sharon still remembered. Everyone seemed happy and showered Sharon with love and warmth, especially his grandfather. The hall itself seemed to be unbounded, with no beginning and no end, and he was able to identify everyone, even those he didn’t know. (His brother-in-law wrote down all the names, most of them people he didn’t know, and indeed he later discovered that those people did exist, many of whom died before Sharon was born.) Everyone wore fine clothing and looked as they did at the time of their death. Sharon looked for his grandfather, a very dignified man, but only found his uncle, his father’s brother. “Where is Grandfather?” he asked. His uncle said, “Grandfather went with our other brother to speak on your behalf.”
Suddenly Sharon felt himself being pushed in the direction of the stage. He was embarrassed, because everyone was dressed in their finery and his clothes were torn and bloody from the accident. As he approached the stage he saw three powerful lights. The middle one was the strongest, and it was so blinding that Sharon couldn’t look at it. The side lights were not as strong, one serving as the voice of “good” and the other as the voice of “bad.” Next to the stage, standing next to the side of “good,” were four Israeli mekubalim: Rav Yitzchak Kadouri, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, Rav David Batzri and Rav Yoram Abergil. (“I wouldn’t say that our rabbis jump between Olam Ha’Zeh and Olam Ha’Ba, but it is brought down in the Gemara that tzaddikim of the generation influence both the lower and upper worlds,” Sharon clarified for Country Yossi Family Magazine.) Suddenly the voice of “bad” boomed out, “Either you or the aunt must stay.” It was referring to Aunt Miriam, whom he had seen just the day before, and she looked as frail as when he had last seen her. “I’m willing to stay,” he heard her say, and then she was no longer next to him, but far away, standing in judgment like himself. As the light of “bad” began its speech, Sharon saw the movie of his life pass before him. The entire hall was watching. They judged him on his concentration during prayer, lashon hara, open and concealed hatred, promises made and not kept (the Aron Kodesh) and theft. After that he was asked three questions, those mentioned in the Talmud: Did you deal in business faithfully? Did you set aside specific time for Torah study? Did you hope for the Redemption? (“Shachar recorded me saying all these things,” explained Sharon, “but believe me, I had never heard of these questions before. I had never learned a page of Gemara in my life.”)
His voice was taken from him, and the light of “good” spoke instead. It told the court how Sharon had given charity to yeshivot, but then the voice of “bad” interjected that he had flaunted his contribution with a plaque on the wall. Then they started checking his observance of mitzvot, including those Sharon had never thought of as important. He was praised for his Shabbat observance, however minimal, and for wearing a kippa. Then the four mekubalim appeared, and although Sharon had never seen them before, they testified on his behalf. Other witnesses appeared, including a widowed aunt that Sharon had helped substantially without his family knowing. It was the aunt’s testimony that tipped the scales and enabled his soul to return to the world. After the trial, the judge spoke from within the blinding light. The judge asked Sharon if he would take upon himself three things, which Sharon will not divulge. One thing he promised to do, and the other two he said he’d try to do. Then came the time for Sharon to decide if he wanted to return to his body in the mortal world. The judge stated that he would suffer much physical pain in this world, but that the pain would expiate his sins and that he should be grateful for it. Sharon then turned around and tried to run out, and again he felt ashamed that everyone was looking at his bloodied clothes. The hall then emptied out except for his grandmother, who ran after him to make sure he left. His grandfather was also there, making sure he got out quickly. As his grandmother faded from view, he saw himself hovering above his body as the medics worked on him, and then his special vision stopped and he returned to his mortal self.
“I’ve spoken to several others who have had after-death experiences,” Sharon told Country Yossi Family Magazine, “and they’ve all had similar stories of judgment. The only thing I remember of my own experience is my grandfather pushing me. But I’m fortunate that it was recorded. Many people have other-worldly experiences and they are lost because no one is there to catch them when they are disclosed.”
Soon after the accident, Sharon pleaded with his family to find Rav Yoram Abergil. The Rav visited him in the hospital as he lay paralyzed, with doctors giving little hope for any additional improvement The Rav’s blessing became a prophecy. He said that Sharon’s right leg would totally heal and that his left leg would remain with a slight limp. “You will yet walk,” the mekubal told Sharon Nachshoni.
Several months later, when Sharon was transferred to the rehab unit at Tel Hashomer, the department head rather untactfully told him to forget any hope of walking again. His injuries were too severe. He told him to get ready for a wheelchair to be a permanent part of his new existence. Sharon, who held dear the Rav’s blessing, told the professor of his hope. The doctor became incensed at the Rav’s “irresponsibility” in creating such a false hope. Yet two months later, when Sharon was up on his feet, the professor actually called Rav Abergil and expressed his shock at the Rav’s power.
Sharon’s experience left him with a new understanding and commitment, which he has translated both to his personal life and to what he sees as his mission in the Jewish world. He lectures to audiences around the country, as both a medical miracle and as someone who has “been there.” “You should know,” he said, “in the Heavenly court they didn’t ask what kind of kippa I wore or where I sent my children to school. They were interested in actions, period. In the end those same worms are going to eat everyone, and everyone is going to have to give an accounting. There are three points I speak about, and everything else is superfluous: to realize that Hashem runs the world, to elevate and sanctify our everyday lives, and to increase our mitzvot between man and man.” Said his wife Avivit of the change to a strong Torah lifestyle, “After going through what he and all of us went through, how can you possibly not change?”
Sharon’s fame, he says, was really accidental. People heard about his story as a result of his intense efforts to find the medic who saved his life and disappeared. He went on national television, and his story was published in the national and religious press, but not a clue turned up. Some people say it was Eliyahu Hanavi, but Sharon prefers not to make such a definitive statement. The head of the surgery team who performed the preliminary operations later told Sharon that he had never seen such a clever, precise lifesaving technique done with the most sophisticated equipment, let alone with a ball-point pen.
Does Sharon Nachshoni have plans for the future, perhaps to return to the field of military intelligence in which he so excelled? “My last plan was a 12:30 meeting about the security in Hebron, which I never made it to. I look at the iron rods coming out of my body, my face that has been pieced back together … How can I make plans? For me, Hashem is the only Planner that counts.”