Need Jewish advise/opinions



I need a bit of advise, but also opinions. Today, while talking with my jewish friend (Our relationship has never really been defined, however we talk quite a bit, occasionally play chess, and I have visited his house) he brought up the point that I kept asserting that Judaism believes in Hell - something I read at Jewish Encyclopedia. This upset him to no end, and he left, extremely made at me saying that that website was incredible (uncredible?). I am unsure whether I’ll discuss it with him again (I still feel I am right), but I just wanted to know what you guys thought about this encyclopedia. Wikipedia has an article about it, and it even has a link to a reformed Jewish Rabbi’s endorsement of it.

BTW, I tried to apologize, however I guess I’m not as humble as I should be or something, because all I did was continue the argument. I really like theological debates, and I like it even more when I’m right so again - I’m unsure what I’m going to do with whatever information is provide but still…pls help.



We do tend to be rather vague on the ‘afterlife’ – I rather like Rambam’s suggestion that discussing it was like the blind trying to describe color.

There are views on the existence of Hell (in Judaism, there are usually several opposing but eminently quotable views on anything) and the very, very bad may, according to some accounts, reside in a very bad place eternally with the not so bad getting much shorter terms. Rambam thought that the very, very bad just got annihilated.

On the subject of the encyclopedia, I don’t think you should confuse it with the ‘Catholic Encyclopedia’, which is often referred to here. No Jewish encyclopedia could be definitive in that sort of way because there is no central authority that could ever make it so – one doesn’t have to believe in something just because the encyclopedia quotes certain talmudic writers on the subject.


Ask seven Rabbis and you’ll get 15 opinions.


The Jewish Encyclopedia is a pretty reliable source. ALthough I’m not crazy about the format. I have the CD but don’t use it anymore. As for Jews believing in Hell, we dont’ have a set dogma on the issue so what we believe may vary. IN general, we do not believe in eternal damnation. However, we do believe that souls such as Hitler’s are being judged quite harshly. For the vast majority of people, we believe the soul is purified for a period of 11 months after death, and then it is returned to God.


Well my friend or whatever insists that Jewish Encyclopedia is a false website, and even said once that it may have been written by christians (not this is last conflict). He also said that the Reformed Rabbi, who reviewed it may not have been a rabbi at all (because I quoted wikipedia…).



Yes, the Jewish encyclopedia’s view on Hell isn’t exactly that of a christian - it seems more like purgatory than anything else to me. But it also said some weird thing about everyone having both a share in heaven and a share in hell, and the righteous man exchanges his share in hell for that of heaven…confusing…



The Jewish encyclopedia is about 100 years old. As far as I know, it is accurate as far as it goes. Maybe the orthodox don’t like it because of its emphasis on the historical as opposed to the theological. I read the article (briefly) on Ghenna (sp?)/hell and while the cites are accurate, you can see that it covers a few opinions.


It has been the aim of the editorial board to present all sides of Jewish life from every standpoint held by any important section of the Jewish community. Imperfections there must needs be in a work of this scope, which has absolutely no forerunners by which it can be checked; but care has been taken to reduce these to a minimum by every device that has been suggested by the ingenuity of the editorial board or the experience of the publishing-house.

(From its preface)


Look up purgatory and afterlife type articles in the Jewish Encyclopedia and you will see a fourm of universalism – even the wicked are purged of their sins, faults and eventaually make it to heaven after being cleansed.


It looks like the Jews need a magesterium.

We’d be glad to loan you one :wink:


viva pluralism within the tradition


Yes, it is working so well when one of your own basically calls another one of your’s opinion heresy - you know stating that it is false website, and that no Jews believe in Hell.



I think it is working very well.


"Gehenna is fairly well defined in rabbinic literature. It is sometimes
translated as “hell”, but Jews must take note that the Christian
version of hell is different from the Jewish view of Gehenna. Some
Christians believe that hell is an abode of eternal torment where
sinners go, and is also for anyone who does not accept Jesus as their
messiah and G-d. Other Christians believe Hell is a place of
separation from G-d (which, for Christians, is torture enough), from
which believers are eventually saved by Jesus. Roman Catholics believe
that Hell is a place of eternal suffering–physical, mental and
spiritual suffering. In the Roman Catholic view of Hell, the physical
pain is constant and severe; but the worst torture of Hell is the
knowledge that they will never see G-d and that they will remain in
Hell for eternity. For Roman Catholics, Hell is permanent and eternal.
For Roman Catholics, the soul that has deliberately and knowingly
disobeyed G-d’s commandments in life and that remains in a state of
mortal sin upon death has through it’s own free will damned itself to
Hell for all eternity. Roman Catholics also have the notion of
Purgatory, which is for souls that are truly repentant, but not in the
state of grace upon death. Purgatory is similar to Hell in that there
is physical suffering, the Roman Catholic belief is that the soul will
return to G-d when it is purged of its sins. Purgatory can last a day
or thousands of years depending on the amount of purging the
individual soul requires.

However, for Jews, gehenna–while certainly a terribly unpleasant
place–is not hell. The majority of rabbinic thought maintains that
people are not tortured in hell forever; the longest that one can be
there is said to be 12 months. It is a spiritual forge where the soul
is purified for its eventual ascent to Gan Eden [Heaven], and where
all imperfections are purged. [In this sense, it is somewhat similar
to the Roman Catholic purgatory, however the time period has a
definate maximum]. Gehennom (lit: the valley of Hinnom, in Jerusalem;
i.e. hell) is the sinner’s experience in the afterlife. In other
words, it’s the same “place” as gan eiden (lit: the garden of Eden;
i.e. heaven) – it’s the perspective of the individual that makes it
one or the other."

From the above the answer is quite simple. The jewish concept of “Gehenna” although translated in the encyclopedia as “hell” is not the Christian concept of “hell”. Both the jewish encyclopedia and your Jewish friend may therfore be deemed to be correct as to the jewish perspective.


Chosen people. I understand what you are saying. The Jewish Encyclopedia article basically said the same thing - and I basically saw the Jewish version of Hell as a purgatory-like place even before I read your quote. Still one thing - while in most cases the soul is returned to God after the 12 months is there no exception? I mean, I think that Jewish Encyclopedia states that there are sometimes exceptions.



Here’s the relative part of the article

“The fire of Gehenna does not touch the Jewish sinners because they confess their sins before the gates of hell and return to God ('Er. 19a). As mentioned above, heretics and the Roman oppressors go to Gehenna, and the same fate awaits the Persians, the oppressors of the Babylonian Jews (Ber. 8b). When Nebuchadnezzar descended into hell, all its inhabitants were afraid that he was coming to rule over them (Shab. 149a; comp. Isa. xiv. 9-10). The Book of Enoch also says that it is chiefly the heathen who are to be cast into the fiery pool on the Day of Judgment (x. 6, xci. 9, et al.). “The Lord, the Almighty, will punish them on the Day of Judgment by putting fire and worms into their flesh, so that they cry out with pain unto all eternity” (Judith xvi. 17).”

Several points.

  1. Judaism is an intellectual not a dogmatic religion. The article brings all sorts of quotes from different sources many which seemingly contradict each other. In Judaism you don’t just get a rule you see the the discussion and opposing reasoning (like notes from a group discussion in law class or a book discussing different possible moves in chess). It is dynamic. In keeping with that spirit the article brings different quotes from different sources but quite rightly does not attempt to try and formulate them into a coherent whole.

  2. Even relying on the quotes in the article it is clear that those doomed to a type of “eternal” purgatory are historical oppressors of the Jewish people. Sort of “we don’t believe in hell but you can bet Hitler is there”.One source rectified the illogic by saying okay there is a hell but Jewish sinners don’t enter as they confess their sins and return to God. Ironically no doubt the non Jews referred to in the quotes had their own highly developed belief in hell.

  3. Judaism concentrates on our life here on earth not on the after life. The article in my reply may be seen as trying to express more prevelant Jewish views

  4. So as to clear up any misunderstandings Jews believe that non Jews go to heaven not hell . In fact its easier for a non Jew to get to heaven as he only has to follow the seven noahide commandments.

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