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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 (22)
March 15, 2015
That's fine. Doesn't bother me if you or anybody else doesn't believe in it.
Doug G
March 12, 2015
Doug G, just because you believe in something doesn't mean it is true.
Richard T
March 6, 2015
Temporary "Hell" or a cleansing place
What you are talking about is Purgatory.
Doug G
November 28, 2014
Dear Rabbi,
Would you like to provide some evidence about what you just said ?
Thank you,
August 27, 2014
I believe it was a very good metaphor. What many part people are under estimating, and BTW, Jason, "wailing, and gnashing", of teeth. We need to learn from our mistakes, experience and learn humanity and see the light and strive for the inner a of that connects to the Almighty! How do we ever expect to develop and gain wisdom in out transmigrations, spoken of in Bedtime Shema, if not to be come in eventually a soul that is a tzaddik or possibly moshiach. Souls must be thrown in to trials. Also to appreciate the existence, of my time back here.
Suffolk, Ny
August 25, 2014
Thank you so much for explaining this to me!
July 29, 2014
Is there an end to Gehinnom? How long does it take for your soul to be cleansed? Do you get to go to "Heaven" after going through a rough and painful procedure? I'm genuinely curious, I am struggling to understand this explanation. I'm not trying to be rude either.
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:
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