Jewish Understanding of Afterlife


#1

A jewish friend recently died. I am curious on Jewish theology regarding what happens to our souls when we die. Do Jews believe they go to heavan or hell? I asked another Jewish friend and he advised that Jews are not told what happens to them when they die? He says its not discussed at synagague


#2

That is an interesting question!

I think the best place to begin to find out contemporary understanding would be a Jewish message board.

What I do know is that the Hebrew Bible was compiled over some 1500 years (more or less) and the Jewish understanding of an afterlife was evolving through that time period. Consequently the Bible gives more than one opinion on this topic and it has resulted in a lot of confusion among Christian groups.

Christ’s teaching of an afterlife was basically in agreement with the Pharisees :eek: of His day.

Jehovah Witnesses would agree with the Sadducees, mostly.

At the Council of Jamna the pharisaic rabbi’s expunged several books of Scripture (the most recent) that reinforced the Christian understandings (like Maccabees), and most synagogs in the diaspora eventually came into agreement with this new “Canon”.

So what they will teach today on the subject I don’t know, is it possible that the teaching varies from synagog to synagog?

I am curious to find out what you learn.


#3

Hi all!

See forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=217006#post217006 & my subsequent posts on the thread.

Questions?

Be well!

ssv :wave:


#4

Thank you for pointing me to the thread on prays for the dead. I recognize from your postings that Orthodox Jews do believe in an afterlife. I did not get from the thread what if anything Jews believe comprises that afterlife. Do Jews believe in heaven and hell? More specifically, do you believe that when you die that there is a judgment by God and if you pass that judgment you go to heaven and if you fail you go to hell? What is the Jewish theology of the afterlife?

In Him,

Steven


#5

Hi all!

Grey Ghost, you asked:

I did not get from the thread what if anything Jews believe comprises that afterlife. Do Jews believe in heaven and hell? More specifically, do you believe that when you die that there is a judgment by God and if you pass that judgment you go to heaven and if you fail you go to hell? What is the Jewish theology of the afterlife?

As we understand it, a soul that has sinned in this world has to pay for its actions/inactions in the next world. We do not automatically & necessarily divide souls into the entirely righteous who will therefore enjoy enternal bliss and the entirely evil who will therefore suffer eternal damnation. The degrees in between are infinite & we believe that God rewards/punishes each soul according to its good/not good actions. As you noted, we have many prayers & rituals that are believed to benefit the soul of the deceased as it goes through whatever trials and tribulations it has to endure in the next world. jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm & jewfaq.org/death.htm are good reads. That there is reward-and-punishment in the next world is an article of faith in (orthodox) Judaism; the actual, nitty-gritty mechanics of said reward-and-punishment are alot less relevant and don’t get as much press.

Our very great medieval Sage, Maimonedes (ou.org/about/judaism/rabbis/rambam.htm), wrote that there are 13 principles of Judaism (ou.org/torah/rambam.htm). Principle #11 says:

I believe with perfect faith tha G-d rewards those who keep His commandments, and punishes those who transgress Him.

Howzat?

Be well!

ssv :wave:


#6

We do not automatically & necessarily divide souls into the entirely righteous who will therefore enjoy enternal bliss and the entirely evil who will therefore suffer eternal damnation. The degrees in between are infinite & we believe that God rewards/punishes each soul according to its good/not good actions.

And yet Protestants accuse us Catholics of abandoning the traditional faith by “making up” the process of Purgation. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m finding your responces both informative and inspiring, SSV, and I’d like to thank you again for them. It’s been a few years since I’ve been directly exposed to Orthodox Jewish beliefs, and you’re reminding me more and more of why I stepped away from being an Atheist. While the journey led me to be Catholic and not Jewish, I hope you can appreciate that it was your faith that made me a believer, and also (perhaps ironically to you), your faith which led me to believe in the Catholic Church. It’s refreshing to have an Orthodox Jew who is able and willing to explain these points to Catholics on this forum, as I think it will do a lot to make us appreciate both your faith and our own.

Peace be with you!


#7

Hi all!

Ghosty, thank you for your post! The more I learn, the more I find that my faith has much more in common with Roman Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy, I suppose) than it does with Protestantism.

You posted:

It’s refreshing to have an Orthodox Jew who is able and willing to explain these points to Catholics on this forum,

That’s one of the reasons why I’m here.

Be well!

ssv :wave:


#8

[quote=stillsmallvoice]Hi all!

Ghosty, thank you for your post! The more I learn, the more I find that my faith has much more in common with Roman Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy, I suppose) than it does with Protestantism.

You posted:

That’s one of the reasons why I’m here.

Be well!

ssv :wave:
[/quote]

Thanks stillsmallvoice, My wifes’ boss who is (Non-practicing)jewish asked me about this. I only knew how to explain it from a Catholic point of veiw which I’m sure he was not looking for.

Your post was very helpful.


#9

SSV: You might find even more connection with Orthodox Christianity and Eastern Catholicism simply because, culturally speaking, they are less prone to modern “innovation” in certain practices. Both sides keep to the traditions, but the Eastern Churches simply have a tendency to keep up the trappings of older times. Even Eastern church design is heavily modeled after the Temple, and has been for over a millenium. The Western Church did this as well, but has recently changed the design to be more “open”, a change that many are beginning to resent.


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