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Am I Going to Burn in Hell?

Am I Going to Burn in Hell?

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Question:

I've committed a number of sins over the years; am I going to burn in Hell?

Answer:

If you think about it a lot, you might...

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the way G‑d treats each person is a reflection of that person's relation with G‑d. So if someone relates to G‑d as the Big Ogre in the Sky that's out to get him, he could well end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How about a friendly partnership as an alternative? Or maybe even some intimate communion?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Chaim Cinncinnati February 15, 2015

Our good deeds do not cancel out our sins.

But if we are truly sorry for our sins, and if we return to the right path, and do not sin any more, that DOES cancel out our sins. Reply

Jacob Columbus February 13, 2015

The rabbi didn't say, "Don't think about it."
He said, "Think about building a joyful loving awestruck relationship with Gdl."

That is the true way to think about Gd. Do not think of Gd as an evil ogre. Think of Gd as your loving Creator/Father/Savior/Shield/Help.

And this will inspire you to love Gd and to want to serve Gd. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL February 12, 2015

Merciful G-d! G-d is more merciful than you give him credit for! As G-d knows how vulnerable human beings are. If you devote yourself to do Mitzvot you might wipe out some of your sins to a certain extent. But some sins can never be absolved and consequences have to be confronted. As for the soul, it can never die as it is part of G-d himself. Reply

Michael Steinhart NV February 11, 2015

Good that we are FINALLY starting to deal with this issue. "the soul that sins shall die"

What is the payment for those? Reply

Anonymous January 22, 2014

we are we going Deby raised an interesting point, if I am correct Judaism places an importance on our actions now in this world, rather than gazing at heaven or hell which is about after death. In christianity the believer tends to be told that belief is enough but this in my opinion does not help the person to live his or her fullest potential. Growing up you are told to 'pray ' about things. In contrast Judaism teaches one to have an outward focus, to do Mitzvos, even if it is the smallest action we take in the next 10 minutes. This , is perhaps how the person is transformed while also contributing to the betterment of other people's lives and the world, rather than agonizing over the thoughts of reward and punishment after death which helps no one and brings nothing. The focus on 'salvation' in a way is quite selfish in my opinion, whereas Tikum Olam is what the end result of our faith needs to be. Reply

Yankel Indianapolis January 21, 2014

Gan Eden is indeed Paradise. But we cannot do mitzvos in Gan Eden.
Only in the physical universe can we enjoy the privilege of doing mitzvos.
Once someone dies, that option is gone.
We were sent into the physical universe to do mitzvos.
Consider the parable of the man who took a six month journey to a place where diamonds were lying around on the ground. But it would be a year before the boat returned and he needed to make a living meanwhile. So he made candles and sold them. At the end of the year he got on the return boat and when he got home he unpacked his suitcase--full of candles. He forgot why he had come to this land. He forgot the value of diamonds.

We, too, must make a living while we are in the universe. But we should recall that we are souls. We came down here for something more precious than diamonds: to lift up the physical universe to Gd's service by doing mitzvos. Once we return where we came from (beyond the physical universe) our opportunity to lift up the physical universe to GD is gone. Reply

James El Paso January 21, 2014

To Carol You ask, "Where is that in Torah?"

But I cannot determine what you mean by "that". Is it what Tzvi said? Or is it what one of the responders said? And in any case, what, specifically, are you asking about when you say, "Where is THAT in Torah?"

I would like to respond, and tell where it is in Torah, but I honestly cannot fathom what you are asking.

I will say, however, that the doctrine of eternal damnation is absolutely absent from Torah and from the rest of the Hebrew Bible as well, including Isaiah and Malachi. Indeed, the book of Jonah teaches us that anyone who is truly sorry and attempts to change his ways will be forgiven, without adopting any specific beliefs and without undergoing any circumcision or baptism--including even the Ninevites (the Assyrians), perennial enemies of Israel and, ultimately, the nation which took the ten tribes away so that they were "lost". Even the Ninevites (the Assyrians) were eligible for forgiveness. Reply

Craig Hamilton January 20, 2014

Re: Carol This idea that G%d gives us what we desire is in Torah in a few places. One place that this is Torah is the story of the destruction of Sodom. Abraham bartered with G^d in Genesis chapter 18 over the destruction of Sodom. This story describes how G&d lets us have it our way.

It is also in Psalm 37:4. So shall you delight in the Lord, and He will give you what your heart desires. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL January 18, 2014

If you think about it a lot, you might... So you’re suggesting that not thinking about it will get you out of the mud? And make you forget about your bad actions! Shouldn’t the punishment fit the crimes? Shouldn’t G-d judge according to the person’s behavior and their sins? No one should burn in hell but they should be accountable for their actions and who knows what the punishment or redemption will be at the end. If a person has commit such sins that they feel so guilty about it, maybe they should make amend and do good for others until it surmounts their sins, unless some sins are so large that nothing can overcome them. Asking G-d for forgiveness won’t erase them but it might bring G-d’s compassion knowing how weak human beings are. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA January 17, 2014

You Want It You Got It One of my professors described our relationship with Gd as often whatever we yearn for, God will grant us. It is no wonder to me that people that hate G@d are also the ones who suffer the most. Christopher Hitchens (r.i.p.) comes to mind on that one. When one believes in Chance, G_d shows that person a world full of chance. It should not be any wonder that for those who toil in Torah, Torah study takes them to heaven on earth. I loved your answer. It is so important to dwell on positive things. Reply

Carol Martin Dallas, Texas January 16, 2014

Where is that in The Torah? As a Christian, I love studying the faith of my Jewish heritage. Everything I believe began with The Torah. The more I study scripture the happier I am in my belief. But I am careful not to confuse the words of man with the Word of G-d. And so, my question was: Where is that in scripture? Reply

Deby Goodman Yorba Linda January 16, 2014

initial reaction This seems a somewhat flip response to what appears to be true apprehension. It would seem to have been far more useful to the questioner to discuss the process of teshuva and restitution, thus assuring him that he is still in control of his own future. The doctrine, posited by Christian groups, that we are all automatically condemned to Hell unless we are "saved" has no place in Judaism, but many Jews are unaware of this. Reply

Richard Suburban DC Maryland January 16, 2014

G-D's Trip Amen! Not "G-D fearing" but rather "G-D faring."

Re: As in "seafaring," taking a trip together although naturally G-D is at the helm.
When safely onboard this ship, such transportations have no trepidations. Reply

Inanna Denver April 10, 2013

Scared? Don't measure up? What are you trying to "measure up" TO?

Perfection?

Gd isn't interested in our being perfect.

Gd loves it when we GROW. if in one tiny way we are better this year than we were last year, that gives Gd great joy.

Please, PLEASE don't shoot for perfection. That's a trap. Our own evil inclination will take advantage of our despair to make us give up.

Instead, fly under the radar of our evil inclination. Try to be a TEENY TINY bit better this summer than we were before last September. Then when the annual judgment comes on Rosh HaShanah, and our thoughts, words, and deeds from this year are weighed against those of the year before, it will be clear that we have improved. Gd will see that we are growing, and Gd will joyfully keep us with Him.

And of course we have to keep it up.

We don't have to be loving every time, every second. We just have to be loving a tiny bit more than we were a year ago, a tiny bit more often than we were a year ago. Reply

Michael Chicago April 9, 2013

Stop being scared Every time we fulfill a commandment we create a good angel which follows us and encourages us to do the same again, and every time we sin, we create a negative angel who also follows us and encourages us to do the same again.

Yep, just like the cartoon with the little winged guy on one shoulder and the little tailed guy on the other shoulder--except that angels don't really have wings or tails.

There's an old saying: "The reward for a mitzvah is another mitzvah, and the punishment for a sin is another sin." That means that every time we fulfill a commandment, we get a chance to do it again, or to do another commandment. Whenever we sin, we similarly get a chance to sin again, or worse.

If we take the opportunity to do mitzvos as much as we can, we get to do more and more mitzvos, and this produces lots of invisible angels following us around, helping us to do more mitzvos. Don't be scared. Do your best.

I get most of this from Adin Steinsaltz Reply

Anonymous Oregon April 8, 2013

Still confused Help me figure it out because now I am scared I will never measure up. Thanks, Michael in Chicago for explaining some things but what happens if I'm having a bad day and don't "feel" like loving others or even Gd? Am I out? If so, how long? Is there a sin/consequence relation? Are we always in that battle? If I'm not good enough or don't do enough good things will I just "cease to exist"?! How do I know if my soul is one not destined for eternity? Reply

Gabe Denver April 5, 2013

If Gan Eden is so good, why is it bad to die? Because we were sent into this physical universe with a mission--to make this a better place for everyone. It's called Tikkun Olam (repair of the world).

Every mitzvah we do, contributes to this repair. And because we love Gd, and we love other people, and we want to contribute, however little, to Tikkun Olam, we want to make the best use of our time in this physical plane.

Once we leave this plane, we can only receive our reward. We can no longer contribute.

And so we are saddened to have our time on this plane cut short. The longer we remain here, the more we can contribute. The longer we stay here, the more Torah we can learn, the more charitable acts we can do, the more love we can offer, the more mitzvos we can do.

Knowing we have contributed to Tikkun Olam is a huge source of joy for us.

Knowing our opportunity to contribute is cut short is sorrowful.

If we are doing tshuvah for the fact that we neglected our earlier opportunity, every minute here is even more vital. Reply

Anonymous newyork April 4, 2013

Question to all If Gan aden(Paradise) is so good then why is it bad to die? Reply

Sandy Tulsa March 30, 2013

The psalmist says, If I go into She'ol, Gd is there. GD IS EVERYWHERE. You cannot be where G-d is not.

And there is no "hell". There is "Gehinnom" which is purgatory. It is a place of purging in preparation to enter Paradise. It lasts a maximum of one year. Not Gd's year. Our year. Twelve months. That's for the worst sinners. For everyone else, it's less than eleven months. And GD is in Gehinnom too. There is no place where GD is not. GD is everywhere, even in Gehinnom (purgatory). But when you are filled with awareness of having done very wrong, the shame of that awareness is magnified by the presence of Gd.
But after you are purged, you are free of that shame, and the joy of that freedom is magnified by the presence of GD.

You don't "go" anywhere. The change in who you are, effects a change in how you perceive "where" you are.

So says Aryeh Kaplan. Reply

Michael Chicago March 30, 2013

Confused In Hebrew we have the word "Sheol" which is the underworld, rather like the Greek Hades. Unfortunately, many translations use the word "hell" to translate Sheol, which simply means underground or the grave. It does NOT mean HELL at all.

But we also have the word Gehinnom, which refers to the place of cleansing after death. We are thankful for the opportunity to get cleansed. Most people can get cleansed in a few months or less. Only the worst people remain for as long as a year. NOBODY remains longer than a year.

Most, after a few hours, or a few days, or a few weeks, or a few months in Gehinnom, go straight to Paradise. Some saintly ones go straight to Paradise w/o a single second in Gehinnom.
Some people skip Gehinnon & endure Gilgul--i.e., recycled. Many of us are recycled. Some have been recycled many times. The clumsy English word for this is "reincarnation" (in flesh again). Some spend centuries in a sort of limbo.

I am citing classic Jewish doctrine here.
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