Do Jews believe in an afterlife?
YES. Note that in Traditional Judaism, there is no
eternal delineation between good souls and evil souls as is common
in Christianity and Islam. Judaism holds that the Satan is still in
heaven, which further means that there is no King of the Damned or
any form of Eternal Damnation. During the Afterlife period, there
are different mechanisms by which the soul must come to spiritual
fitness in order to be a part of the eventual resurrection of the
dead. Some Kabbalists say that this comes by way of reincarnation,
but the dominant opinion in Judaism is that souls must exert
themselves painfully to open up new levels of holiness. This is
similar to the Christian concept of Purgatory.
However, there are a large number of Jews, generally from Liberal Judaism, who would say that Judaism has no afterlife. This lack of belief generally comes from the fact that Reform and Conservative Judaism do not stress the afterlife and often ignore teaching about it.
- Jews traditionally believe in an afterlife, but the focus of the Jewish religion is on life on earth and interactions between people, following God's laws, etc. This is one main difference between Judaism and Christianity, which is heavily focused on an afterlife.
- They have this answer: Simply put, yes-- but what we believe in might better be called "life after life." The belief in an eternal life is one of the basic teachings of Judaism. As a matter of fact, Maimonides (a foremost Jewish philosopher and expert of Jewish Law) included this belief in his Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith.
- The human soul is invested with an infinite quality that is not subjected to the limitations of time and space, just like God. According to Jewish belief, it is only the body that dies, while the soul lives on.
Where does the soul go after death?
This question implies travel and movement, which only exist in this physical universe. So, the soul "goes," if that can be said at all, to a "place"-- a state of existence-- that is completely drenched in Divine Radiance, unlike our current existence. Here, Godliness is hidden. There, Godliness is manifest. In Judaism, this place is called the World to Come, while life on Earth is referred to as "This World." After death the soul goes to the World to Come.
Our souls' eternal life makes it so important for us to maximize our time in this world. Because the amount of radiance the soul is capable of absorbing in the World to Come is directly proportionate to the spiritual acts performed by the soul in This World. It's kind of like taking a test-- the more you study, the better you do.
To prepare our souls for the World to Come, we study Torah and perform mitzvot. These spiritual acts feed and nourish our souls. However, we do not study the Torah or perform mitzvot merely to earn a reward in the World to Come-- this is seen as selfish.
In summation, the question may be rephrased: do Jews believe in death? And the answer, ultimately speaking, is "no."
Jews believe human existence goes beyond physical death although the primary focus is the here and now as opposed to the afterlife .
There is a degree of belief among more Orthodox Jews concerning reincarnation and the coming of the Messiah when the souls of the righteous will be resurrected.
I recall hearing something from my Jewish friends about wicked souls ceasing to exist beyond this life. One of the greatest proverbs among the Jewish people is about the wicked being "cut off from his people."
Many Orthodox Jews believe in multiple phases of an afterlife.
After a Jew dies his soul goes to heaven where it is judged how well it kept the 613 commandments (or 7 Noahide laws, if the person isn't Jewish.)
The person will then spend time in a fiery hell (Gehinom) for up to 11 months, to cleanse his soul of the blemishes caused by sinning.
The soul then goes to heaven - where it enjoys pure spiritual bliss. The intensity of the joy depends on the quality of his observance while alive.
(Unless the person committed one of the sins for which his soul gets "destroyed"; whether this means eternal hell or actual destruction is a matter of debate.)
At the end of days - which could be when Messiah comes or some time after that - there will be a miraculous resurrection of the dead. According to Jewish tradition the body doesn't decompose fully; a tiny fragment of bone from the neck is indestructible. From this bone the body will once again grow and all people who ever lived will once again come back to life and reunited with their souls. (They will be fully clothed and look like they did at the prime of their life.)
Then will be the great day of reckoning after which the wicked will be destroyed and the righteous will live forever. (What kind of "life" is a matter of dispute; either life as we know it or else more the type of life like in the Garden of Eden before Adam's sin.)
Those who lend money with forbidden interest, or who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead will not be resurrected.
The above is based on articles 11 and 13 of the 13 Principles of Jewish faith as codified by the Rambam:
- Article 11: Reward of good and retribution of evil:
To believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, rewards those that keep His commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
- Article 13: The resurrection of the dead:
To believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator.
the answer is: yes; but the belief in the afterlife of the Jews is different from the belief of Christians. The Jewish belief says that there are 4 paths after death:
1. the 1st is that if the human did not sin and was righteous then he will go to heaven
2. the 2nd is the the human did sin but not large sins they will reincarnate but they have to be humans again they can reincarnate into an animal or plants or something else
3. the 3rd is when a human soul sins bigger sins he will go to hell - now the Jewish hell is different from the hell that we often hear of. The punishment in hell is only for some months and it is a place where the soul is purifying.
4. the 4th and the worst, is a punishment for the sinners that had egregious sins. It's a tool that throws the soul to different places on earth and the soul needs always be on the run from the Angels of destruction. This punishment last for alot of years and its name is "Kaf ha-kela" which means a slingshot.
The term "afterlife" is not usually used by Jews; rather, we refer to the "world to come." In truth, Judaism doesn't spend a lot of time discussing what will happen when we die, since the focus is on this life. There is also little mention of what happens after death in the Tanach (Jewish Bible). There are some ideas of what may happen when we die though:
- When we die, our souls are cleansed, to accomplish this, we must account for all our actions in life, both good and bad. It's believed that this process doesn't take more than 12 months but virtually no one does enough bad in life to warrant it taking the full 12 months.
- Some souls may return to God to wait for the world to come.
- Some souls may be reincarnated as another person to have to opportunity to do more good in the world to become closer to God.
- Some people are so evil in life that their souls cannot survive the cleansing process and cease to exist.
One of the central beliefs of Judaism, as codified by Rambam
(Maimonides), is that the soul continues to exist and is treated in
accordance with the person's actions while he/she was alive. All
outstanding accounts are settled after this life. Some cases
illustrate this point, since this entire world wouldn't be enough
to reward a Moses or punish a Hitler.
The afterlife is detailed at length in the Talmud. A full 20 pages of Talmud (Sanhedrin 90-110) are given to this subject. The afterlife is also referred to briefly in Torah (Bible) verses such as Genesis 15:15, which states that "You (Abraham) will come to your fathers in peace and will be buried in good (ripe; full) old age." This does not mean merely to be buried with one's forefathers, since Abraham was not buried with them. Such verses are stated many times.
The prophets are more explicit with such references (such as Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:13).
The Tanakh does not delve into detail of the rewards of the righteous, because other religions could compete with even more poetic promises. Also because belief in the afterlife was shared by all ancient societies and needed little reiteration. See the Kli Yakar commentary to Leviticus ch.26 for a fuller discussion.
Yes. One of the central beliefs of Judaism, as stated in the
Talmud (Mishna, Sanhedrin 11:1) and codified by Maimonides
(1135-1204), is that the soul continues to exist and is treated in
accordance with the person's actions while he or she was alive.
This applies to all people, whatever their religion.
The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) doesn't dwell at length on the afterlife; and nor does Judaism spend a lot of time speculating on its details. However, that is not meant to diminish from its importance. Rather, the Torah implies that we are to use the bulk of our energies in keeping God's ways in this world, with our feet firmly planted on Earth, while nonetheless not losing awareness of our beliefs.
Our ancient sages stated the importance of being aware of the next world: "This world is a mere entrance-hall before the afterlife" (Mishna, Avot ch.4).
All outstanding accounts are settled after this life. Some cases illustrate this point, since this entire world wouldn't be enough to reward a Moses or punish a Hitler. And while we're alive, knowledge of the future world serves as one of the motivations to keeping God's will.
The Tanakh does not delve into detail of the rewards of the righteous because religions could compete with more and more poetic promises. Also because belief in the afterlife was shared by all ancient societies and needed little reiteration. Besides, it would be like describing the colors of a sunrise to someone who was blind from birth.
It is, however, referred to briefly in Torah verses such as Genesis 15:15, which states that "You (Abraham) will come to your fathers in peace and will be buried in good old age." Coming to his fathers does not mean simply to be buried with them, since Abraham was not buried with his ancestors. Such verses are stated many times.
The prophets are more explicit with such references (see Isaiah 26:19 and 66:24, Daniel 12:13, Zechariah 3:7, 1 Kings 8:30, 2 Kings ch.2, Ecclesiastes 12:7). The afterlife is spoken of at length in the Talmud. More than 20 pages of Talmud (Sanhedrin 90-110, Rosh Hashanah 16-18, and other passages) are given to this subject.
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