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Do Jews believe in Hell? I am not planning any trips there or anything, but I have heard conflicting reports about its existence.

Do Jews Believe in Hell?

Do Jews Believe in Hell?

What Is the Jewish Belief on Hell?


Dear Rabbi,

Do Jews believe in Hell? I am not planning any trips there or anything, but I have heard conflicting reports about its existence.


We do believe in a type of Hell, but not the one found in cartoons and joke books. Hell is not a punishment in the conventional sense; it is, in fact, the expression of a great kindness.

The Jewish mystics described a spiritual place called “Gehinnom.” This is usually translated as “Hell,” but a better translation would be “the Supernal Washing Machine.” Because that’s exactly how it works. The way our soul is cleansed in Gehinnom is similar to the way our clothes are cleansed in a washing machine.

Put yourself in your socks’ shoes, so to speak. If you were to be thrown into boiling hot water and flung around for half an hour, you might start to feel that someone doesn’t like you. However, the fact is that it is only after going through a wash cycle that the socks can be worn again.

We don’t put our socks in the washing machine to punish them. We put them through what seems like a rough and painful procedure only to make them clean and wearable again. The intense heat of the water loosens the dirt, and the force of being swirled around shakes it off completely. Far from hurting your socks, you are doing them a favor by putting them through this process.

So too with the soul. Every act we do in our lifetime leaves an imprint on our soul. The good we do brightens and elevates our soul, and every wrongdoing leaves a stain that needs to be cleansed. If, at the end of our life, we leave this world without fixing the wrongs we have done, our soul is unable to reach its place of rest on high. We must go through a cycle of deep cleansing. Our soul is flung around at an intense spiritual heat to rid it of any residue it may have gathered, and to prepare it for entry into Heaven.

Of course, this whole process can be avoided. If we truly regret the wrong we have done and make amends with the people we have hurt, we can leave this world with “clean socks.”

That’s why our Sages said, “Repent one day before you die.” And what should you do if you don’t know which day that will be? Repent today.

See What Happens After We Die? from the Jewish Death and Mourning section.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Discussion (15)
June 30, 2014
Beautiful analogy
This may be the best and clearest analogy for "hell" that I've ever read!
April 14, 2014
Oh God...why did I ask?
your mom's
March 9, 2014
Daniel 12:2 - eternal reward and eternal punishment
And many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken-these for eternal life, and those for disgrace, for eternal abhorrence.

ב. וְרַבִּים מִיְּשֵׁנֵי אַדְמַת עָפָר יָקִיצוּ אֵלֶּה לְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם וְאֵלֶּה לַחֲרָפוֹת לְדִרְאוֹן עוֹלָם:
February 20, 2014
what about people that don't believe in God... or think that they are wrong or doing anything that is unlawful.. what will happen to them at the end of their lives? You can't force someone to repent.. I'd really like to know the answer..
Mountain Creek
January 23, 2014
Amazed Still
You guys never fail to amaze me.

If I had the power I would never put my socks in the washing machine when I can just wish it to be clean.

Don't you see all this doesn't make sense?
December 5, 2013
Thank you!
I've always wanted to know the answer to this question. This answer provided me with great peace.
November 16, 2013
David wrote in the Book of Psalms: 'If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too' (139:8). God is ever-present, even in 'hell'. If he wanted to be eternally separated from sinners, he would annihilate our existrnce, not throw us in an oven for eternity, where he would still be. He is the source of all existence. If it exists, God is there to give truth of its existence. But his presence offers hope; it does not ensure suffering that never ends. We suffer everyday. To me, suffering is hell, and as long as we ignore the presence of hope, we continue to suffer. God calls us back to him, so why would he drive us away? The whole point in suffering is to strengthen the spirit. It is during such times that we tend to fall back on God and his mercy.
October 27, 2013
This doesn't really sound like a Jewish concept of hell... When the prophets write of a place with "weeping and gnashing of teeth."--that is NOT a washing machine to purify oneself. And there are so many references of a severe separation from G_d. This sounds like some badly influenced new-age idea mixing in with our theology...
Los Angeles
August 29, 2013
Beyond Fear...
I know that a certain amount of fear of the "washing machine" is healthy, but it can also be very frightening and overwhelming. Even if the ultimate goal is positive, how does one deal with the fear of a painful washing machine experience:)?
New York
August 18, 2013
Remember what came first
To all the many people I have heard compare this to Catholics "purgatory" please know that "purgatory" may have similarities but if and what they are , are because the New Testament scholars used Jewish ideas and concepts to formulate it.
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