Do Jews believe in heaven and hell?


#1

A friend was told by a Jewish acquaintance that Jews do not believe in heaven and hell. Is there specific references in the Old Testament about Jewish belief in heaven and hell?


#2

Modern Judaism is similar in some respects to Christian Protestantism, insofar as there is no one understanding of Judaism that is binding on all Jews everywhere. This means that when you are told by a Jew that “Jews believe this” or “Jews believe that” you have to first ask the movement to which the particular Jew making the claim subscribes. Analogously, when a Christian tells you “Christians believe this” or “Christians believe that,” you have to first understand what Christian tradition formed that Christian’s perspective on Christianity.

There are several movements in modern Judaism in the United States. The most well-known, ranging from traditional to liberal, are Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform. Keep in mind that these are designations that apply mainly in the English-speaking world and primarily among Jews of Ashkenazic (Eastern and Central European) descent. The movements are known by different names elsewhere, and Jews of other areas may not subscribe to them.

As for heaven and hell, Judaism does not have a highly developed theology of the afterlife because of its emphasis on the importance of this life. However, traditional Jews do believe that death is not the end of human existence; some traditional Jews do envision the rewards and punishments of the afterlife similarly to Christians.

**Recommended reading:

Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife
Movements of Judaism**


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