Christians have a concept of heaven and hell, but from what I’ve heard Judaism neither mentions hell nor does it really refer to the afterlife at all.

So does that mean everyone goes to the same place?

5 Responses to “What’s the afterlife like according to Judaism?”

  • dasfk.:

    Pennies, everywhere.

  • Michael K:

    It is a place of peace, without suffering. We rejoice in God’s presence. That’s pretty much it.

    However, I find this boring and having to do this forever is torture.

  • Aravah:

    answer: it is believed by many that the most evil of souls cease to exist, all others will have a place with G-d/heaven/the world to come

    there are many views because the afterlife isn’t described in Judaism. Most Jews don’t focus on the afterlife, we let G-d worry about that. Jews focus on the here-and-now: keeping G-d’s commandments, studying Torah, caring for others and helping to repair the world.

    Some Jews believe that when someone dies and they are righteous, we go to join G-d immediately. If we aren’t righteous they spend a short time away from G-d.

    Some Jews believe that we enter a sleep-like state until the Messiah/Messianic age and then join in the new world to come.

    Some Jews believe in reincarnation until the Messiah/Messianic age or until one becomes righteous enough to join G-d.

    Jews do NOT believe in an eternal torment/hell. That would not be part of the righteous plan of a loving G-d. There is NO discussion or description of “hell” in the Jewish Tanakh. Some believe the utmost in evil souls simply cease to exist

  • skepsis:

    The classic Biblical view of the afterlife is sheol, the common grave of humanity, where nothing much happens. Among those Jews who prefer an active afterlife, it is usually the return of the Garden of Paradise, with unbelievers and malefactors possibly not participating.

  • Hatikvah JPA:

    There’s no central belief about the afterlife in Judaism. There’s nothing about it in the Hebrew Bible other than sheol, the grave. (The root word of sheol means question.) No one has been there and come back to tell us about it. One “belief” is that it will be an end to the world *as we know it* and a return to the perfection of the Garden of Eden here on earth.

    “It is not enough to be concerned for the life to come. Our immediate concern must be with justice and compassion in life here and now, with human dignity, welfare, and security.” Abraham J. Heschel

    “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

    “The wolf will live with the sheep and the leopard will lie down with the kid; and a calf, a lion whelp and a fatling (will walk) together, and a young child will lead them. A cow and bear will graze and their young will lie down together; and a lion, like cattle, will eat hay. A suckling will play by the viper’s hole; and a newly weaned child will stretch his hand toward an adder’s lair. They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be as filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed.” Isaiah 11:6-9

    In general, Jewish thinkers have focused on the ways to lead a good life on Earth and improve this world, leaving concerns about death and beyond until the appropriate time. Judaism has stressed the natural fact of death and its role in giving life meaning. Of course, issues of death are inevitably important. The fear of death, concern about the fate of our own soul and those of our loved ones, ethical concerns that some people die unfairly, all these and many other issues are discussed in Jewish literature. Since God is seen as ultimately just, the seeming injustice on Earth has propelled many traditional Jewish thinkers into seeing the afterlife as a way to reflect the ultimate justice of human existence.
    Traditional thinkers considered how individuals would be rewarded or punished after their deaths. There are a few rare descriptions of life after death. Traditionalists gave the name Gehenna to the place where souls were punished. Many Jewish thinkers noted that since, essentially, God is filled with mercy and love, punishment is not to be considered to be eternal. There are, similarly, many varying conceptions of paradise, such as that paradise is the place where we finally understand the true concept of God. It is also possible that there is no separate Heaven and Hell, only lesser or greater distance from God after death. In addition, punishment might be self-determined on the basis of suffering in kind the suffering the person brought about. That is, Judaism doesn’t have a clear sense of Heaven and Hell, with different places in Hell for different punishments. Rather, the idea is that God uses the afterlife to provide ultimate justice and for the wicked to seek some sort of final redemption. Judaism does not believe people who are Gentiles will automatically go to Hell or that Jews will automatically go to Heaven on their basis of their belonging to the faith. Rather, individual ethical behavior is what is most important. Many traditional Jews believe that Judaism provides the best guide to leading such an ethical life.
    In Kabbalah, it is not only God who judges us. As we bid farewell to the world, we are shown a film that contains scenes of our entire lives. We are witnesses to every moment of our days on Earth as they pass before us with incredible rapidity. And as we watch our own story unfold, there are times when we cringe with embarrassment; others when we smile with glee. Our past moral lapses cause us to shudder in pain; our victories over our evil inclinations provide us with a keen sense of spiritual triumph. It is then that we realize in retrospect that we alone are the greatest judges of our own lives. What happens after death is that we gain the wisdom to evaluate our own life by the standards of Heaven — because we have finally glimpsed an eternal perspective.
    What is Hell? Remember when you were in eighth grade and something utterly embarrassing happened? The shame you felt and how you just wanted the ground to open up so you could disappear. That is Hell. It is the deepest realization that our life (or part of it) has been squandered, which creates a deep regret and shame in our soul.
    The good news is that God — in His infinite kindness – established this as a cleansing process, where after one year (or less), all the negativity has been forever washed away.

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